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Research Our research Centres of expertise Groningen Centre for Health and Humanities Research

Language across the Lifespan


NWO Vidi Project - Language Learning Never Gets Old. Foreign language learning as a tool to promote healthy aging

The world is aging. In Europe alone, more than 20% of citizens will be over the age of 65 by 2025. Aging is seen as “one of the greatest social and economic challenges of the 21st century” (“Ageing Policy”, 2016) and healthy aging research is put high on the research agenda. The vast majority of healthy aging contributions come from health and medical sciences. In a lab on bilingualism and ageing, researchers actively incorporate humanities insights into healthy aging studies.


  • Prof. Dr. Merel Keijzer (Director of the Lab Bilingualism and Ageing) researches how bilingualism effects modulate aging, either in individuals who are already bilingual to varying degrees before reaching advanced age but I also look at the question what introducing a bilingual experience in the form of foreign language learning in third age learners does to seniors’ cognitive and social aging

PhD Projects

  • Floor van den Berg assesses how the acquisition of new skills (i.e., language learning, learning to play a musical instrument, and participating in a lecture series) affects cognitive functioning in seniors. Specifically, we investigate the effects on the cognitive flexibility and well-being levels of seniors with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) or subjective memory complaints vis-à-vis their neurotypical peers. This is achieved through adopting experimental approaches such as eye-tracking, questionnaires and neuropsychological testing
  • Jelle Brouwers examines the effects of foreign language learning on late-life depression. Seniors with this diagnosis often experience reduced cognitive flexibility; a skill that is trained and strengthened when learning and speaking a foreign language. In order to measure the difference between baseline and post-test (or follow-up) conditions, multiple experimental paradigms are employed. These include eye-tracking methods, tests that measure a participant's wellbeing, and behavioral paradigms that test executive functioning.
  • Saskia Nijmeijer Msc. works on Learning to preserve: foreign language training in seniors to prevent old-age disorders, collaboratively run between the Faculty of Arts and Medical Sciences This project examines the effects of foreign language training on seniors’ cognitive flexibility (assessed behaviorally as well as through EEG and fNIRS methods)
  • Mara van der Ploeg MA works on Language Learning Never Gets Old: Implicit and explicit language learning in seniors. With third age language learning becoming increasingly popular, it is not yet known what the best way is to teach older adults a new language. Partly on the basis of a concurrent citizen science project that taps older adults’ wishes and preferences regarding third age language learning, an implicit (focus on meaning, little to no explicit grammar instruction and ample exposure to authentic language input) and explicit language condition (explicit focus on grammatical rules and on the firms of language) is created and their effectiveness assessed
Last modified:31 October 2022 12.49 p.m.