Robbie Norval - Lingo Flamingo

Lingo Flamingo provides tailored foreign language workshops delivered by students and refugees to older adults to help the battle against dementia, brain ageing and other forms of mental illnesses.

Through their workshops, Lingo Flamingo aims to help reduce isolation among older citizens whilst also giving vulnerable people a safe haven where they can feel welcome, enjoy themselves and learn a new skill all at the same time.

The workshops improve the communication, cognitive development and inter-personal skills of older adults and makes learning foreign languages more accessible for adults with disabilities or older citizens. Benefits have included improved self confidence, companionship, self worth and empowerment. Recent research has shown that speaking a foreign language can dramatically postpone the effects of dementia by up to five years.

The workshops are delivered to individuals both within the care sector and through other third sector organisations. Lingo Flamingo is also working with Edinburgh University to research the effects of delaying the effects of dementia with positive early signs. They have also developed a partnership with Alzheimers Scotland who are very supportive of their innovative and accessible approach.

Robbie Norval founded Lingo Flamingo in 2015. The social enterprise now employs 35 tutors who work in care homes and community centres across Scotland. So far, it has worked with more than 800 people.

Lingo Flamingo class

Robbie took part in the LaunchMe programme to support Lingo Flamingo through a phase of growth into new markets and with the aim of expanding the service into communities all across Scotland.

He said: "It is a misconception that people later in life cannot learn a new language; our aim is to empower older people to fight against brain ageing.

"Getting onto LaunchMe provided us with much-needed business support and advice and funding to create a marketing post, specifically aimed at preparing and planning for growth into new and different markets."

Robbie has recently introduced a volunteer befriending programme to pair linguists with those with dementia who revert to their mother tongue and may be feeling isolated in a care home. He is opening a language hub - the Language Nest - in Glasgow later this year, with the money raised from paying participants used to fund courses in care homes.

Read more case studies of entrepreneurs who are part of our LaunchMe programme.

Click here for more information on LaunchMe.