COMMUNICATION WITH A PERSON OF ADVANCED AGE: STUDIES IN A GROUP OF HUMANITIES STUDENTS
Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin (POLAND)
The article presents the results of studies on the communication barriers caused by the difference in age between interlocutors – the subjects were asked to show how they communicate with the aged. The studies were conducted on the material of the Polish language in a group of 120 students on the following humanities study programs: journalism and social communication, and speech therapy with audiology. The subjects participated in classes in “Social Communication” and were familiarized with the key concepts in communication theory (here: social language skills, social language roles, and the system of social language roles). Their comments were made in a written form as open-ended utterances. The analysis of the obtained material enabled the distinction of particular categories of behaviors determining the difference in the way of communication of young persons with those of advanced age (here: the purposeful choice of a specific variety of language and language style; a specific realization of the phonic sequence /at the segmental and suprasegmental levels/; a conscious choice of the lexicon; simplifications in syntax; and reduction of topics during conversation). A ranking of categories corresponding to particular aspects of verbal behaviors was also developed. The illustrative material consist of written comments by the subjects investigated, expanded with utterances from the discussion on communication barriers in contact with the aged, which was held already after the preparation of the results of investigations. The undertaken investigations increased the subjects’ awareness of stereotypes concerning communication with the aged: in the discussion the students pointed out the necessity of exchanging views on this issue, joint observation and assessment of the phenomena, emphasizing at the same time the lack of opportunities to do so during their studies despite the fact that at the time of the ageing of European society this problem is extremely important. An interesting question is how strong the underlying cultural basis of the obtained results is: the investigations were confined to students in Poland only.