The interest of older people in the active way of life is not only a passing fad but a characteristic of our time and the trend, an inseparable element, towards social change which characterizes developments in Europe. The elderly enjoy much better health and are more and more alert, and as soon as their professional activity is over, they devote themselves actively, in accordance with their own organism, to the realization of their aspirations. This is why it is undoubtedly very important for trainers and educators to develop working methods adapted to seniors who on the market of educational services constitute a new group, which often generates many fears among teachers.
A very important factor influencing the choice of the teaching method in question in each group is to know the motivation and the goals that the participants in the foreign language courses have set themselves. In the case of seniors, the following tendencies appear which influence their desire to deepen their linguistic knowledge:
Willingness to communicate while traveling – while in Polish conditions this is not yet as visible as in Western Europe, although the possibilities of traveling are now more evident and the will to do so is present. An additional factor determining their desire to know new spaces is attached to migration due to the fact that more and more people have family who have settled abroad.
The desire to meet people of the same age and sharing a similar problem – Very often the elderly feel alone, especially after the end of their professional activities. Moreover it is good to underline that there are not many places where the elderly can establish new relationships, so the universities of the third age are a place where the social bond is reinforced and makes it possible to break the loneliness. and especially to meet people of the same age.
brain training – learning foreign languages is a stimulus for the human brain. It causes, among other things, the activation of neuronal connections in the brain and consequently leads to the improvement of memorization and the capacity for association. Learning language as a logical system can then be defined as a kind of memory-enhancing exercise.
Achievement of aspirations – learning a foreign language is often an aspiration (a need), to the development of which, while leading an active professional and family life, one can no longer devote time. This is why, just when the lack of time is no longer an obstacle, the seniors decide to realize these aspirations.
Substitute activity – retiring causes enormous stress felt by most older people. Moreover, in addition to the lack of work, there is also the so-called empty nest syndrome because very often the children who have become adults leave the house. In these circumstances, foreign language courses are a pleasant alternative to the daily greyness.
Showing off – Once again it should be emphasized that the periods after finishing professional activities constitute a huge transition, which in an irreversible way influences human life. Participation in language courses allows you to feel useful and to find your own place.
Seniors as a learning group
Seniors constitute a relatively new group in the market for educational services. It is all the more necessary to examine its characteristics very closely. Seniors form a very heterogeneous group – this is due not only to a great diversity of ages (55/60/90), to varied professional origins and what is most important to the superposition of several levels in the knowledge of a considered language.
The diversity of the knowledge of the foreign language often results from the diversity of the professional origins, nevertheless it constitutes an important element in the learning process. It is not a question here of the precise language that the elderly person at a given moment would like to master but of previous experiences and the influence of the linguistic knowledge acquired during the learning of another language. Despite often expressed and widespread opinions, the elderly despite the slowed reaction to stimuli resulting from physical deficiencies, very often demonstrate an ability to associate ideas and to draw in-depth conclusions and do not concede anything to younger people. and often even surpass them, which results from previous experiences acquired during their life.
Seniors also form a group that already denotes habits determined in the context of learning and therefore, in this respect, demonstrates less elasticity in the context of new didactic options , compared to younger people. New alternative methods should be introduced gradually, otherwise they cause anxiety and even demotivation.
It is worth emphasizing that the physical aspect of human life, which causes sight and hearing to deteriorate in older age , plays an important role in the learning process. This is for example of enormous importance with regard to teaching materials designed for seniors whose proofs should be printed in larger type and audio recordings should be cleaned of interference and background noise. Paying attention to these small elements generates an invaluable influence on the quality of teaching and learning.
Finally, seniors represent a group possessing the knowledge and life experience already mentioned on several occasions and these characteristics can contribute to the essential enrichment of foreign language courses.