Before launching into an update on ERA, I must get something off my chest. I wish I’d attended the gero-pets session during the 2021 online conference. It would have been a chance to introduce my retired greyhound, who exemplifies comfortable ageing beautifully. She’s definitely coming to the 2022 online conference (polite request to Bristol online conference organisers, many thanks!)
I took part in the conference as part of my role as ERA secretary. It’s been a great pleasure getting to know and working on events with the other committee members since starting in summer 2020, so much that some of us have stayed on for another year until summer 2022. Being involved has also been very thought-provoking, despite the limitations of Zoom. While planning events we’ve chatted about gerontological matters. That’s how, for instance, we first heard from the current ERA chair, Heather Mulkey, about the idea of ‘comfortable ageing’, pioneered by the scholar Margaret Cruikshank.
That conversation led us all in turn to think about how we could share and enable ‘comfortable learning’ with other early career researchers (ECRs). Many are ‘accidental gerontologists’, as the BSG President Tom Scharf put it when he launched the 2021 ERA pre-conference. Some are on their first career, others their fifth. Some work in academia across a range of disciplines whilst others work outside of it, either through choice or necessity. A few combine their research with entrepreneurship. Having a safe space to say “I don’t really get it” when it comes to academic theory is therefore very important.
After a bit more deliberation we came up with the idea of online ‘gerontology and tonic’ (G&T) sessions. Each will start with a quick and informal ‘bitesize’ explanation of a theory or topic, followed by a relaxed and open discussion. The aim is simple – to help us all see things in a fresh light. A big thanks to Miranda Quinney from the ERA mentoring team for coining such a brilliant name. Our first G&T is on Friday December 17 at 4-5pm (or was if you are reading this after that date). It will be hosted by the incoming ERA chair, Arlind Reuter. The topic is ‘lifecourse theory’ (using Santa as an example). To sign up to this and future G&Ts go to (or keep an eye on) ERA Events :: British Society of Gerontology (britishgerontology.org)
Some of our ERA committee members are involved with academic book reviewing. They say that it’s a great way of developing scholarly skills, such as writing for an academic audience. Two are book review editors, and welcome approaches from would-be reviewers. To be specific, the outgoing ERA chair Matthew Lariviere is one of the International Journal of Care and Caring book review editors, and Heather Mulkey is one of the Ageing and Society book review editors. More about our recent ERA event on book reviews in a future blogpost.
In 2022 we plan to think about employability, a hot topic for early career researchers. Alison Benzimra, the ERA Treasurer, is working on this with a range of partners in the new BSG special interest group on Ageing, Business and Society. She’s swinging into action on Tuesday January 11 at 4-5.30pm as the chair of a session on career journeys in research and ageing, co-hosted by Zinc. To find out what Zinc is all about, and to sign up, visit New Year, New Career? With BSG ERA and Zinc (hs-sites.com)
Work has also started on the ERA pre-conference in July 2022. This takes place the day before (and sometimes the morning before) the main BSG conference. It involves presentations from early career researchers, panel discussions, and opportunities to chat.
There will also be additional sessions for early career researchers throughout the main conference. The reason some of us didn’t attend gero-pets during the main 2021 conference is because we were at Kay Guccione’s must-attend mentoring workshop. It was worth it – with lots of useful guidance and opportunities for interaction. There’s more in her book Coaching and Mentoring for Academic Development | Emerald Insight
If you’re an early career researcher, let us know your thoughts. If you have ideas for the pre-conference and events, or would like a particular theory to be clarified during a G&T, please do get in touch. You can do so via the ERA pages on the BSG website, through Twitter or by emailing era (at) bsg.org.uk. We don’t check the email everyday as we’re all volunteers, but we will get back to you (before or after a comfortable walk in the fresh air with the dog).
Bill Bytheway said:
Pets and age are interesting. We don’t have any pets but in isolation in retirement, we regularly walk the public parks and we’ve noticed all the signs, both ageing dogs and rejuvenating ones. I remember Anne Gilmore, chair of the BSG in the 1980s, presenting a paper about older people in Glasgow and pets. In particular, she talked about pigeons on the window sills of tenements.
Lisa Davison said:
Yes definitely an interesting topic. I’ll have to look up that paper about the pigeons in Glasgow, most research focus on dogs/cats, so it will be interesting to read about birds! I wrote my MSc dissertation on animal assisted therapy and was fascinated by the benefits of animals. Here’s something that might be of interest to you, Dr Nick Jenkins at UWS heads up a research project on multi-species dementia (www.multispeciesdementia.org).
Lucy Smout Szablewska said:
Hello Bill, Thanks for your comment – the images it conjures up in the mind’s eye of birds on a window sill and crumbs of comfort are very evocative. Pets came up in conversation at our G&T (gerontology and tonic) session on 17 December and proved to be a great topic for enabling the sharing of thought-provoking academic research and relaxed chat over Zoom. We ended up discussing how to position oneself and a pet so that both are in view in a laptop screen – and what to do when the pet won’t sit still!