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Dr Gerry Gairola

As I was travelling from the United States to attend the 37th Annual BSG Meeting this year I was getting nervous. The plane was late landing in Bristol from Newark, New Jersey on the morning of September 4th and the conference was starting at noon. I had attended the last eight BSG annual meetings and I did not want to miss any part of the program. I quickly boarded an Airport Flyer bus going to Temple Meads train station. Being in a hurry and ignoring the careful instructions given by the planning committee to go onward to another train station closer to campus, I took what ended up to be a rather expensive taxi ride from Temple Meads to the University of the West of England (UWE).

I was so intent on getting to the first plenary session that I even became impatient with the driver when he didn't know his way around campus. After all he had told me that he had gone to school at UWE (but later admitted that he had only gone there briefly and on another part of campus). I finally made it to campus housing where delegates were staying, dropped my bag in the room, and quickly walked to the conference lecture hall.

Dr. David Kalache had already started his presentation on "Ageing worldwide-have we noticed?" I was only a few minutes late and as I sank into my seat and caught my breath from all the pressure of the journey, I quickly became absorbed in Dr. Kalache's presentation about demographic aspects of global ageing. Although I am a demographer by training, I now work more in the area of ageing and health services and had not stopped to consider the important thesis central to his presentation. That is, that most developed countries were developed before they had ageing populations. On the other hand, many developing countries are growing old before they have enough economic resources to assist in caring for increasing elderly populations. Dr. Kalache's presentation was poignant and reaffirmed my quest to be on time for the start of the meeting.

I had learned from past conferences that the plenary sessions often leave me with new insights into the study of aging. In addition, I find I come away with a renewed sense of commitment to help improve health and social services for the elderly, especially for the most frail and vulnerable. The plenary momentum continued on each day of the conference with presentations by Miriam Bernard from Keele University on retirement villages and Graham Rowles, one of my colleagues from the University of Kentucky, on the meaning of place in old age. Both presentations helped me reflect on changes many elders make as they move from one home to another home or type of housing or even to a medical facility. Where do we get our concept of home? Do we carry our concept of home with us wherever we go? Does this concept of home influence how we adjust to a changing environment?

One of the things that I appreciate most about attending the BSG annual conference is the opportunity it affords to interact with other faculty and practitioners who have similar interests. The numbers of delegates are about 300-400 in total attendance and I find this size conference allows more interactions among delegates than is often the case with larger conferences. When I first became a member of the BSG I was involved in a cross-national study of community-based health services for the elderly in the UK and USA. That project is completed now but the BSG conference has helped me to continue to develop my interests in comparative studies of the elderly and how these comparisons enrich our ability to develop patient- centred health services.

During this conference I had a poster presentation and was co-author of a paper presentation. Both presentations focused on elder care and health sciences curricula. My colleagues and I received very helpful feedback from delegates on what we were doing. We also had discussions about possible collaborations in the future.

In the general sessions, there were many impressive paper presentations and posters. I have come to especially appreciate the diversity and inclusiveness of the BSG's presentations. The conference programs include not only a wide range of topics, but also diversity in methodologies and theoretical perspectives. In addition, projects are sometimes presented in different stages of completion in order to benefit from feedback and discussion. The diversity and inclusiveness of the conference make it a strong venue of interest for both emerging researchers, senior academics and senior professionals in the field of gerontology.

Finally, I felt that the conference was very well-organized. This is especially notable since it was a cooperative effort between two universities-- the University of the West of England and the University of Bristol. The venue was at the UWE campus and it's difficult to imagine the amount of time and preparation that went into planning, especially since UWE was also housing and feeding conference delegates. The logistics of the conference seemed to be very well thought out-- delegates' needs were anticipated and cared for not only with efficiency, but also with a caring attitude.

I would like to thank the BSG for their support and if the price of airfares doesn't go beyond reach next year, I will look forward to returning for the 2009 BSG conference in Bristol!

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