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Who's Who
Christina Victor

Describe yourself in three words.

Hard-working, determined and fun

How did you get here today (i.e. career/research)?

Being a good swimmer when I was a teenager, I was destined to go to Loughborough PE College on a swimming scholarship to train to be a PE teacher. However I ended up doing a geography degree at Swansea (the beaches were better) and then did an M Phil in medical geography at Nottingham. It should have been a PhD but the department and I didn’t get along so I left and joined the Civil service where I worked in the Department of Environment research department which I hated even more. I applied for a research job at the Welsh National School of Medicine working in a newly created research group focussing on the care of older people. I had no subject knowledge but the right type of research skills so, I was hired! It was this job that kindled my interest in ageing research and where I completed my PhD. I found the whole topic area to be intellectually challenging but also incredibly important. Since then I have managed to combine my research interests in the social/public health aspects of ageing with lecturing jobs across a range of universities. I have been employed to do what I love so I have been very fortunate in my working life.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?

In terms of my academic career, to focus my research on what I was really interested and passionate about, which is social gerontology, and not to be distracted by tangential research interests such as health services research. Research can sometimes be a frustrating and lonely activity and it is hard to maintain enthusiasm if you are not passionate about your subject.

Who’s the most influential person in your life and why?

The two most important people in my life were my parents. Their unconditional love and belief in my ability shaped my life by giving me the opportunities that lead to me going to university, although I don’t think they anticipated that I would stay there this long!

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?

I don’t think I can choose just one. I was greatly influenced by the writings of Peter Townsend, Michael Young, Margot Jeffrys and the pioneering geriatricians such as John Sheldon and Bernard Isaacs. These are all researchers who combined a passionate desire to improve the lot of older people with careful and measured social research that provided robust and eloquent insights into the daily lives of older people. If I had to choose just one book it would be a tie between Townsend’s two key books:The Family Life of Old People and The Last Refuge. Outside of work, I love the novels of Thomas Hardy. Far from the Madding Crowd is definitely a ‘desert island disk’ novel.

What do you do when you are not doing ageing research?

Swimming. My working life is rather sedentary so , when not engaged in academic pursuits, I spend a lot of my spare time involved with swimming. My ‘Big Society’ contribution is in coaching and officiating for Guildford City Swimming Club. I also participate in Masters swimming (that is swimming competitions for veterans-those aged 25+). Am still trying to achieve my childhood ambition of being the best female 200m butterfly swimmer in the world. If I live to be 90 I might just make it. I have run the London Marathon every year since 2000 (and a few before that) –every year when I finish I swear that I will never do it again but somehow, come marathon morning, I seem to find myself at Greenwich Park waiting to run it again.

What’s the future for ageing research?

Whilst there is no doubt about the continued importance and relevance of ageing research, given the current economic context ageing research is going to have to compete even more vigorously for funding. The trend towards larger scale multi-disciplinary projects will continue, at least for the next few years which, I think, will pose challenges for new researchers starting out in the ageing field. More personally I would like to see a much stronger emphasis on research looking at the diversity of the experience of ageing such as exemplified by research looking at the ageing of our minority communities, those ageing without children and to embrace the richness and diversity that characterises peoples’ lives and how that is played out in later life.

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