80-Year-Old Czech grandma defies stereotypes, becomes prolific Wikipedia contributor

In a delightful departure from the stereotypical image of a tech-savvy Wikipedia contributor, 80-year-old retiree Jirina Kadnerova from Sobehrdy, south of Prague, has become a dedicated contributor to the online encyclopedia.

A former librarian and bibliographer, Kadnerova showcases a passion for documenting local history, as she explores the village with her cellphone, collecting material for her next Wikipedia article on a Protestant church.

Challenging the common profile of Czech Wikipedia contributors described by Klara Joklova, CEO of the Czech unit of the Wikimedia Foundation, Kadnerova represents a distinct demographic. She emerged as an active participant in the “Seniors Write Wikipedia” project, a Czech initiative launched in 2013, which provides training to elderly individuals interested in contributing to the open-source encyclopedia.

Retiring as the head of a scientific library, Kadnerova refused to conform to the typical retirement label. Instead, she engaged in university courses, took a job as a bibliographer at the Czech Academy of Sciences, and occasionally served as a tourist guide. Seven years ago, her grandson encouraged her to leverage her expertise and writing skills for Wikipedia, leading her to embark on a journey of contribution.

Kadnerova’s Wikipedia endeavors focus on historic sites, with around 100 published articles and over 1,500 edits to existing entries, often enriching content related to libraries in the region around Prague. The Czech Wikipedia, boasting over half a million entries, witnesses an expanding community of contributors, including an increasing number of seniors like Kadnerova.

Conducting workshops at senior centers, university student Jan Mysak recognizes elderly contributors as a “promising group” due to their time, life experience, and focused interests. Approximately 700 seniors have participated in the free courses offered by the Wikimedia Foundation, managing the encyclopedia that attracts over a billion users monthly with its vast repository of information in over 300 languages.

Kadnerova, a passionate tourist, finds joy in exploring historical places firsthand. Recruiting a fellow retired head librarian, she is extending her enthusiasm to others.

“I’m happy when I can take a look at a piece of history and find out someone has praised the entry or even added something. That’s what makes me happy,” she expressed, highlighting the fulfillment she derives from contributing to Wikipedia and the sense of purpose it brings to her retirement years.

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