These are unprecedented and challenging times for the EU, UK and for us – our research, policy and practice community. We care passionately about the welfare and wellbeing of people of all generations and ages, and about solidarity across society, and between the generations. Consequently we are all experiencing a profound sense of uncertainty about what happens next.
As researchers and experts we have witnessed a public undermining of knowledge, research and expertise. We have seen a rejection of academically informed efforts to bring information and informed opinion into the public sphere. Society seems to be fragmented and divided. For those in the higher education sector, our students and staff feel in precarious positions, and the uncertainty surrounding our future funding streams poses threats to the much needed research that we may be able to carry out. For those in the public, private and voluntary sectors working to maintain and improve the welfare of older people, many factors are driving our fears for the future. These include workplace transformation, retrenchment and job losses, insecurity of funding streams, ongoing austerity measures, and a rise in publicly displayed racism and xenophobia.
I think in coming months and years, it may be helpful to focus on four things:
- Along with other global challenges including poverty, inequality, war, conflict, and climate change, the rapid and unprecedented ageing of populations around the world is transforming societies in every dimension. This poses complex challenges for governments, civil society, communities, families and individuals. The need will remain for robust research, commentary, and policy reform around ageing populations and older people, whatever else is happening in the world around us.
- In a climate of constrained resources, the need for research of outstanding merit, that is robust and persuasive, is more important than ever. Resources need to be directed as optimally as possible to improve the lives of those who need them the most. The Academy is crucial to this project.
- As research, policy and practice communities, we need to come together to share our understandings of the world and to inform each other of our research. We need to stimulate and test new ideas, and to think together about where we go next, what we do next. We will need collaborative networks to make this a reality, to have the best chance of securing research funding, and to move the knowledge and evidence base in optimal directions.
- We need fora to amplify our voices, in a crowded space where many are now shouting. We need to facilitate the dissemination of research and informed opinion, so that people hear it, and so that together, we can change the world, little by little, for the better.
As President of the British Society of Gerontology, I will do what I can to make the voice of gerontology heard. I will feed in to the lobbying of the Academy. I will support the networking that I see as so vital, and support spaces that help to amplify your voice. I look forward to receiving your contributions – your ideas, wisdom and experience, and I hope to see the Society grow in these undoubtedly troubling times.
With best wishes
Debora Price, Professor of Social Gerontology
President, British Society of Gerontology
Director, Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing (MICRA), University of Manchester