Teaching Languages to Older Adults

A workshop from the Centre for Research in Language Development throughout the Lifespan

  • Thu 19 Oct 23

    13:00 - 18:30

  • Online

  • Event speaker

    Agata Słowik-Krogulec, Robbie Norval and Rosi Mele

  • Event type


  • Event organiser

    Language and Linguistics, Department of

  • Contact details

    Karen Roehr-Brackin

The aim of this workshop is to bring together research into and practical experiences with teaching languages to older adults aged 60+.

In particular, we will consider the benefits and challenges associated with teaching third-age learners. What can and what cannot be achieved? Dimensions of interest include learner factors such as affect (confidence, anxiety, self-efficacy), cognition, mental and physical health, social factors, and the role of the teacher. To what extent do approaches to teaching and learning languages require adaptation? How can teachers best serve older learners?

We will focus on the specific needs and preferences of older adults, while at the same time bearing in mind that individual differences are as important (or perhaps even more important) in later life stages as they are at all other points during the human lifespan. The plenary papers will report on work with both healthy, independent older adults and older adults in care homes and/or with early-stage dementia.

Centre for Research in Language Development throughout the Lifespan.


Participation is free of charge, but registration is required.

Please register by 17 October 2023.


Information about the workshop schedule can be found in the programme.

Plenary Speakers

Agata Słowik-Krogulec (University of Wrocław)

Older adult foreign language learners: needs, abilities and preferences

Although there is still much to be explored in the studies of clinical, biological, and social gerontology, recent research has ensured a better understanding of various aspects of ageing, including factors influencing healthy ageing, longevity, and cognitive decline (Tollefsbol, 2007). These advancements are also vital for second language acquisition studies and foreign language geragogy (FLG) in particular. Yet, the currently available materials and curricula designed for older adults as well as teaching and assessment techniques used in foreign language classrooms still fail to acknowledge limitations and specific educational needs of third-age learners.

The purpose of this talk is, therefore, to consolidate the already existing knowledge regarding FLG and to present needs, abilities and learning preferences of this age group, analysed from two perspectives: students’ and their teachers’. The subjective views related to foreign language education that are investigated in this study will move us one step closer towards discovering the reasons behind problems with creating a non-threatening and stimulating classroom environment. As a result, this paper will highlight the issue of (mis-) understanding the principles of learning languages in later life, challenge the most common preconceptions or even stereotypes related to old age and FLG, point to the differences between often incompatible views regarding teaching and assessment techniques used in the language classroom, and, finally, provide solutions to the most common problems.

Robbie Norval and Rosi Mele (Lingo Flamingo)

Language learning within care home settings: a practitioner’s perspective.

Lingo Flamingo is a social enterprise who teach foreign languages to older adults in care homes and day settings. We do this for three core reasons. Research has shown that language learning can act as a great workout for the brain and can postpone the effects of dementia and brain ageing. Secondly, language learning acts as a way to increase the well-being, self confidence and sense of worth of participants. Finally, through our courses, participants get the chance to do a certified SQA (Scottish Qualifications Authority) course which enhances their sense of achievement and accomplishment. In our session, we will firstly touch upon the logistics of our projects and provide some contextual and background information. Then we will discuss some of the teaching methods and measures we have developed to teach older learners and to make language learning accessible and inclusive for all. Thereafter we will present some of the challenges of teaching in care home settings and teaching participants living with dementia. Finally, we will highlight some of the benefits of teaching older learners and the impact it has upon their lives as well as the wider care home culture.