British Society of Gerontology (BSG) 2017: Do Not Go Gentle – Gerontology and a Good Old Age

by Samuèle Rémillard-Boilard
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The University of Swansea (UK) was home to the most recent British Society of Gerontology (BSG) Annual Conference. Held from the 5th to the 7th of July 2017, the Centre for Innovative Ageing hosted this year’s conference on the University’s brand new Bay Campus, a superb conference venue situated just a few steps away from the beach.

Delegates from all over the world gathered in Wales to discuss this year’s conference theme, ‘the Art of Ageing’. Participants not only travelled from all over the UK, but from as far as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Hong Kong, to take part in this three-day event. Their journey was certainly made worthwhile: the conference not only offered an impressive academic, social, and cultural programme but also perfect weather!

As it has been the tradition for a few years, the conference was preceded by a workshop hosted by the Emerging Researcher in Ageing (ERA) network. Students and early career academics were invited to present their work and attend a keynote address and workshop on insights into the publication process from two members of the editorial board of Ageing & Society (Prof Christina Victor and Dr Martin Hyde). As Gemma Carney highlighted in a recent blog, BSG members are known for their intergenerational solidarity, and for promoting the collaboration of junior and senior members. This year again, the BSG offered an encouraging and supportive space for doctoral students to discuss their work, both during the ERA workshop and throughout the whole conference.

Entitled ‘Do Not Go Gentle – Gerontology and a Good Old Age’, this year’s programme was developed around 8 sub-themes, ranging from health and social care, to participation and inclusion, cultural gerontology, supportive relationships, arts, and environments of ageing. Although the programme offered something for every taste, ‘Cognition and Dementia’ rapidly emerged as a key theme of the conference. This theme was notably addressed by Prof Dawn Brooker who dedicated her keynote presentation to supporting people living with dementia post-diagnosis, and by the dinner speaker, Beti George, who shared her experience of caring for her partner living with dementia.

In terms of critical approaches that are relevant to the International Network on Critical Gerontology, the conference featured thought-provoking sessions on themes of inequality, exclusion and diversity, with presentations on global environments and ecological approaches (Prof Norah Keating), frailty and inequalities in late life (Prof Amanda Grenier), and the co-production of research with older people (Dr Tine Buffel), to name a few. These themes were also explored in three symposia chaired respectively by Prof Debora Price, Prof Thomas Scharf, and Prof Chris Phillipson. The first focused on lifecourse influences of health and wellbeing in later life, the second, on the emergence of a new agenda for research, politics and practices on inequalities in ageing, and the third, on the development of age-friendly communities. Together, these sessions reaffirmed the importance of fighting the inequalities and injustices that affect older people and paved the way to next year’s conference theme: ageing in an unequal world.

‘Ageing in an Unequal World. Shaping Environments for the 21st Century’, the 2018 conference of the BSG will focus on the theme of inequalities and reflect on one challenging question: how best to influence and shape environments of ageing for the coming century? We can expect next years’ conference programme to build on the successes of the 2017 BSG in Swansea and provide opportunities for critical reflections on ageing. These might include for example, concerns for taken-for granted assumptions about aging and late life; how to best foster connections between research, theory, policy and practice; and engaging in scholarship that ultimately results in change that better the lives and experiences of older people. This not-to-be-missed conference will take place in Manchester from the 4th to the 6th of July 2018 and is already accepting abstract submissions.

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