I would never have guessed it was possible to combine an all inclusive beach holiday with academic excellence. It seems I lack the imagination of the team led by Dr. Paul Nash, ‘The Face of British Gerontology’ and his team of CIA Agents who welcomed us at the Swansea University Bay campus for this year’s BSG conference. The Centre for Innovative Ageing somehow managed to combine 5 star food, comfortable accommodation, highly original entertainment and academic excellence in what everyone agreed was a BSG conference that will become part of the Society’s folklore in the future.
The Ageing of British Gerontology
The Society’s healthy longevity was a theme throughout the week, not least because of the evocative photographic exhition The Ageing of British Gerontology, led by a team at Keele University. Going around the exhibition I had a lump in my throat looking at photographs of Kate Davidson, Alan Walker, Bill Bytheway and the other gerontologists whose shoulders we all stand on. I was particularly pleased to see that activists like John Miles were included. Gerontology in the UK has always stood out for its activist as well as academic pedigree. But what was really remarkable about this year’s conference (apart from the food, which really was delicious, there were doughnuts and tropical fruit at the same coffee break) was the evidence of continuity between the generations. Or rather, what I witnessed is intergenerational solidarity in action. This is something that BSG members have always been good at; we seem to do it naturally. The most junior or newest members are just as important as those whose influence is so great that they deserve inclusion in an exhibition on the discipline itself.
Intergenerational Solidarity at BSG
I have been attending BSG in various capacities since 2009. Back then I was a newbie, over from Ireland and so keen to impress my colleagues that I presented three papers at the conference, all on a similar theme. Every time I rocked up with presentations which combined unoriginal ideas with wild enthusiasm, I was met with friendly and supportive critique and encouragement. This supportive, friendly culture still makes BSG stand out from other academic conferences. Our tolerance and helpfulness is being rewarded. The society now has over 600 members. Over 50 papers by doctoral students and others new to gerontology were presented at the Emerging Researchers in Ageing pre-conference workshop. Our flagship journal, Ageing & Society is in the process of becoming a monthly publication. On the main programme at Swansea, we welcomed new colleagues from right around the globe. In some of the sessions I attended this week, the PhD students were presenting the most original and exciting work. Always under the guidance of someone well known within BSG. That’s intergenerational solidarity. How lovely. Given the extremely high quality of those presentations made by masters and PhD students, as well as community researchers and activists at the conference, it seems that the future of gerontology is in very safe hands. Roll on Manchester, 2018.