Faculty of Arts
University of Groningen

Introduction to the Bilingualism and Aging Lab (BALAB)

When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground

This old African proverb contrasts sharply with Western society’s view on its rapidly aging population, where the focus is very much on declining health and diminished cognitive abilities of older adults and the repercussions on society’s healthcare costs. The research done within the Bilingualism and Aging Lab (BALAB) has the potential to debunk aging myths; it focuses on learning rather than forgetting in old age. The Bilingualism and Aging Lab (BALAB) was founded under the auspices of the Center for Language and Cognition Groningen at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.

The lab is run by Merel Keijzer as PI and currently hosts four PhD projects and a number of research master and master research internship projects. As a research group, we meet once a week. The aim of the lab is to bring together research done within the university of Groningen on bilingualism through the lifespan, with a focus on third age bilingual language use and development. Additionally, it intends on showing the importance of humanities-based research in shaping the research field of healthy aging. Indeed, although the lab’s roots are in Applied Linguistics, the projects embedded within the lab reflect and inform different disciplines and the lab members therefore collaborate across faculties; The lab’s home is the Faculty of Arts, with links to the University Medical Center Groningen, the Research School of Behavioural and Cognitive Neurosciences and the Cognitive Neuroscience Center. Moreover, we collaborate with a number of organizations outside of the university, e.g., Biblionet Groningen.

The research done within the lab is both epidemiological-oriented, recruiting large samples in the northern Netherlands, where bilingualism as a lifetime experience and mostly bilingual language use is treated as an individual, continuous variable. But other studies done within the lab examine the cognitive and social effects of introducing a bilingual experience later in life through foreign language courses. The effects of such a cognitive intervention is compared to other forms of late life interventions, such as music training and creative workshops.

This website showcases the lab’s projects (past and current), publications to come out of those projects and the media attention the projects and lab members have received. Crucially, it also gives information about the people involved in the lab. Should you have questions about the lab’s activities or if you are a student looking for research possibilities, please fill in the contact form on this website.








Prof. dr. Merel Keijzer

+31 50 36 37537

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