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Dr Deborah Price
Dr Deborah Price

How did you get involved in ageing research?

A rather odd route, I guess.  After graduating in Law and completing my Bar Finals, I had practised as a barrister for almost 15 years, ultimately specialising in family law.  Together with colleagues I had been involved in setting up a new set of specialist family law Chambers in London, and it was clear early on that this would be a successful, stable venture.  It seemed like a good time for me to take a year’s sabbatical to pursue a research question that had troubled me for many years – what happens, financially, to divorced women after divorce?  I was particularly interested in long term outcomes, and how divorcees lived in old age, many years after their divorces.  I did some research about the best place to do a Masters degree that would enable me to pursue this question, and came across the formidable team of Sara Arber and Jay Ginn at the Centre for Research on Ageing and Gender at Surrey University.  I signed up for a full time MSc in Ageing and Social Research, supervised by Sara.  That was in 2001.  I never returned to the Bar, and have stayed in ageing research ever since!


Could you briefly outline your career?

Following my MSc, I was awarded an ESRC studentship to pursue a full time PhD at Surrey, continuing my research into pensions and partnership formation and dissolution.  I defended my thesis in 2005, by which time I had secured a lectureship in Social Gerontology at the world renowned Institute of Gerontology at King’s College London. The IOG has been a wonderful place to continue my research and teaching, with outstanding colleagues doing important work.  A promotion to Senior Lecturer followed, and here I still am.


What are your key areas of interest?

As my understanding, knowledge, teaching and research have evolved, my interest has increasingly focussed on how the welfare state structures family and gender relations.  I specialise in the study of pensions and the poverty of older people, the sociology of money, especially household money over the life course, and the legal regulation of the financial consequences of family formation and dissolution.  I now convene and teach Masters level modules on Ageing in a Global Context, Social Policy in Gerontology and Research Methods for Social Sciences and Health.  Primarily a quantitative researcher, I also have an interest in survey methodology. 


How did you become interested in BSG?

Sara and the all the gerontologists at Surrey persuaded me to join BSG as a PhD student and I helped with the organisation of the 2004 annual conference held at Surrey.  Within a short time, I realised that I really looked forward to meeting up with friends and colleagues at the annual conference each year and that I had somehow become part of the UK gerontology community.


What does your role as Treasurer for BSG involve?

Mostly not being too scared of a spreadsheet!  With the considerable help of Rachel Hazelwood, I manage the day to day finances of the Society, set the budget, advise on expenditure, report to the Committee and the members, and prepare the papers for the annual accounts and the Charities Commission.


What has been your biggest challenge in your career?

Completing a PhD thesis.  Even though I was used to working very long hours at the Bar, the intellectual undertaking in producing a finished thesis is huge, and difficult to imagine if you have never done it.


What do you like most about your job?

When students leave a lecture or seminar with greater knowledge and understanding about age and ageing than they had when they came in; supervising and learning from brilliant PhD students; my colleagues at the IOG; and producing research findings that advance what we know about the world.


What do you dislike about your job?

The hideous bureaucracy that we have to deal with on a daily basis, the lack of administrative support for what we do, and the structural stresses in higher education at the moment. 


What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

From Jo Moran-Ellis, a lecturer at Surrey – acknowledge that for all practical purposes, knowledge is infinite and everything is connected, so you can never know everything you need to know to truly understand your field.  Stop worrying about it.


What are you currently reading?

Come on Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All: A New Zealand Story by Christina Thompson, with My Mother’s Lovers by Christopher Hope waiting in the wings.


Anything you can’t live without?

My diary.  I find life confusing enough with it!

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