The language used with respect to old age – respect in practice
human rights
City (headquarters):
Voivodeship (headquarters):
04-01-2021 - 31-10-2022
Project cost:
59 490,00 EUR
59 490,00 EUR
Types of activities:
social actions and campaigns, educational activities, networking
Target groups:
elderly, local community

One of the problems affecting the elderly is the way we speak to and about them: condescending or infantilizing language that takes away dignity and subjectivity. This phenomenon has its own name “elderspeak” (English), in Polish “dziadurzenie”. It manifests itself, among other things, in addressing an elderly person as “grandpa/grandma,” addressing them as “you” (without asking permission) or impersonally, using infantilizing phrases. Knitting is a manifestation of discrimination against the elderly, but it also reinforces it, normalizing the subjective treatment of the elderly and weakening their self-esteem. Studies indicate that grandparenting has a strong impact on the condition of the elderly, manifesting itself in, among other things, reduced social relationships, self-stereotyping, less confidence in one’s own communication competence, a sense of reduced control over one’s own life, and a reduced sense of agency.

As part of the project, educational workshops were held on discrimination in language and how to respond to it for 146 people 60+ and 122 people working with seniors in various institutions (including day care centers). A local public awareness campaign was conducted entitled “Your Words. My Dignity” raising awareness of what elderspeak is, the negative consequences it brings, what other non-discriminatory forms of language can be used and how to respond assertively to them. Through the self-advocacy workshop, ambassadors for the social campaign were selected, who then appeared in spots and conducted meetings with local groups. A network of local institutions, organizations and individuals working to reduce elderspeak and spread the term in Polish was also established. The project also produced various materials and tools, including workshop scenarios for the elderly and those working with the elderly, as well as information and promotional materials (educational videos, a flyer, poster and handbook). The project was implemented in 7 municipalities in Lodz province.

Thanks to the project, the term “dziadurzenie” was popularized, and public awareness of the phenomenon increased. Senior citizens have been empowered and learned how to respond assertively to discriminatory language. The sensitivity of those working with seniors in organizations, institutions and nursing homes was also raised, and they declared, among other things, that they would promote and implement new standards for communicating with the elderly in their workplaces.

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