The senior, or silver, economy is growing in importance as an ever-more profitable global sector, and this trend is bound to manifest itself also in Poland. This entails a need for greater societal attention devoted to various aspects of senior citizen involvement in the market, and one such aspect is comprised in legal protection.

Senior citizens constitute a target demographic for many goods and services, so it is only logical that they be approached as a distinct group requiring a special standard of legal protection. How customers are solicited – not only customers who may be slightly less worldly wise, a bit more prone to confusion – is a question of business ethics. After all, sales presentations of kitchen implements with seemingly magical powers, duvets guaranteed to cure all ailments, and remarkably inexpensive stakes in luxury developments are also attended by young, professionally active sophisticates, some of whom also end up making hasty decisions which they subsequently regret. On the other hand, the senior citizen is fully competent in the eyes of the law, a customer and a consumer with a lifetime of accumulated experience who is as free as the next person to engage in market exchanges; the good-intentioned desire to protect seniors may not cause them to be relegated to the status of children, with us as their overprotective parents.

Polish law abounds with provisions intended to safeguard the interests of individuals who may be less savvy about the market and its workings. The Polish Civil Code (including its arts. 3851 and 385) institutes a basic consumer protection package, as do the legislative Acts regarding consumer rights and regarding consumer credit. The broader principles of Polish civil law, meanwhile, refer to generally accepted norms of community living – to a common sense standard of what is, and isn’t, fair.

One may reasonably fear whether this is sufficient. Key importance will attach to judicious use of these long-standing instruments by persons whose legal interests are in fact at risk. If this is to be achieved, however, the persons concerned must dispose of at least minimal knowledge of their rights, and not be afraid to build upon this knowledge by inquiring with legal professionals (whether on a commercial basis, or within the framework of one of the many legal clinic or consumer protection programmes). Legal awareness should be cultivated from as early on as possible – as it were, among future senior citizens. An especial challenge is posed in bringing this same basic knowledge to the senior citizens of today; this is a role for all and sundry non-governmental organisations, consumer associations, and senior clubs as well as for local self-government authorities.