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'Identities, Care and Everyday Life’, 39th Annual British Society of Gerontology
Bursary Reports from Laura Soulsby; Michele Board; Marielle Beringen; Eloise Radcliffe; Michelle Rickett; Ilia Papachristou; Rosalind Willis; Diane Roberts

Laura Soulsby, University of Liverpool

I am currently a PhD student at the University of Liverpool and my thesis considers the importance of age in the impact of marital status change on identity, psychological wellbeing and social networks. At the meeting I was invited to present preliminary findings from my PhD research in both paper and poster sessions. The sessions were well attended and I felt encouraged by the positive feedback I received. Besides presenting my work, I also attended a range of stimulating symposia, paper and poster sessions.

As a member of BSG’s ERA group, I was please to hear about the growth of ERA in Australia in Professor Helen Bartlett’s keynote talk. Over the three years I have attended BSG meetings, the ERA events have provided me with the valuable opportunity to meet emerging researchers from a variety of disciplines within the field of ageing. The friendly and encouraging atmosphere of the conference allowed me to discuss and reflect on my PhD research, and engage with other delegates about their own research.

Michele Board, Bournemouth University

The conference therefore provided me with opportunities to network, to discuss my research, to fuel my ‘passion’ as a lecturer. My actions points following the conference are;-
• Ensure I prioritise my PhD in spite of work commitments; no one will want to hear what I have got to say until I do. (My supervisors will be especially pleased to hear me say that!)
• To follow up the contacts made at the conference and develop these new networks

My tips for next year’s ‘virgins’ would be;-
• Be brave, it can be difficult to attend the conference when you don’t know anyone. But at the BSG conference you will receive a warm welcome
• Don’t be afraid to cat nap during the day to keep you going
• Don’t take a book to read – you won’t have time!

Mariëlle Beringen, Free University of Amsterdam

To me, this year’s conference started with attending the pre conference early career workshop on writing successful research proposals. This workshop was about writing successful proposals in order to obtain funding. It made me realise that this can be a long and sometimes frustrating process, but also a very rewarding one. There were several lectures, all full of interesting tips and tricks. The exercise we had to do in smaller groups at the end of the day, gave me a deeper understanding of how difficult it can be to differentiate ‘good’ proposals from the lesser ones. I think it is a good thing to realise how hard it can be to obtain funding early on in your career, as it hopefully helps you making the right choices. Thanks to the ever inspiring Christina Victor, it was also a day with a smile…

The next day, the actual conference started. After the introductions and the first keynote lecture, it was time for my presentation on older people and their use of city buses in The Hague. This was actually my first conference presentation ever and it was actually a very valuable experience. I have to say, I was a bit nervous. Presenting in front of people who are well-known in the field of gerontology and who’s work I really admire and, in a different language. However, I soon felt comfortable as I felt that attendees were really supportive and quite willing to provide me with useful feedback, which I asked for before starting my presentation.

Eloise Radcliffe, King’s College London

A real highlight of the conference for me was seeing Professor Anthea Tinker being awarded the very well-deserved, prestigious Alan Walker prize for her contribution to British Social Gerontology. Another highlight was hearing a very interesting keynote speech from Professor Anne Martin-Matthews about the meaning, use and negotiation of time in relation to paid carers and their older clients which gave me real food for thought.

I was very impressed with the variety of papers on offer during the parallel sessions at the conference, although this meant that it was often hard to choose which to attend. I particularly enjoyed Professor Julia Twigg’s presentation on consumption patterns of clothing, cosmetics and hairdressing by post-war ‘baby-boomers’, based on analysis of the Family Expenditure Survey. This highlighted some interesting issues about the important role of the body in the presentation of self and how social expectations in relation to age are expressed.

I am very grateful to the BSG for awarding me the bursary to attend such a great conference. I am looking forward to attending again in the future and would really recommend that PhD students and researchers working in ageing attend the BSG conference.

Michelle Rickett, Keele University

The BSG conference came at just the right time for me, and I was looking forward to finding out more about cutting edge research and practice. However, I was also aware of how little I knew about gerontology and how few gerontologists I knew, and wondered if I would feel intimidated or a bit of an outsider…

My fears were certainly unfounded. BSG 2010 combined the pace and excitement of a large conference with the kind of warm and welcoming atmosphere usually found at smaller events. The diversity of experience and expertise amongst the participants created a feeling of openness and a spirit of curiosity which allowed conversations to flow freely and easily, and made me feel much more at home than I had expected.

The programme was huge, and I took a two-pronged approach, selecting a few ‘must-see’ papers and symposia related to my research, and many others that I knew little about but intrigued me. I’m really glad I did this, as some of the most memorable parts of the conference involved papers that didn’t appear directly relevant to my research, but made me think about things in new ways. I particularly enjoyed papers in the ‘Ageing Bodies’ stream, along with Julia Twigg’s keynote address, which opened up such interesting questions about methodology and critical theory in gerontology (and also made me think about the role of the body and embodiment in the project I’m currently participating in, which is focused on older people’s involvement in theatre). The Visual Methods symposium was fascinating, combining both interesting case studies and critical reflections on the possibilities and limits of these methods. I also enjoyed the symposium on Engaging with Theory, which gave an accessible and stimulating introduction to cutting edge theory in gerontology, and made me eager to get reading!

Ilia Papachristou, University of Surrey

I found the conference well organised with lots of different elements from different angles in ageing. I particularly enjoyed the Pre-Conference Early Career Workshop: “Writing Successful Research Grants”. Where as an emerging researcher I had the opportunity to get together, discuss and review research proposals. This was chaired by Professor Christina Victor, who was very encouraging in applying for grants and looking for funding. This was also a great way to ease us into the main conference and a chance for meeting and greeting. I had the chance to catch up with colleagues who I had met at previous BGS conferences, which was great fun, and I met new emerging academics who were doing their PhD. I would highly recommend future students to attend the workshop at the next BSG conference.

With academics from around the UK and internationally, I was able to meet colleagues who had travelled, for example, from California, Sydney and Berlin, and talk with them about projects they are involved in. Such as a large project which is happening in UCLA which aims to enhance retirement security for middle-aged and older Latinos. They are planning to develop a new policy agenda that will make issues of aging Latinos a priority for policy makers as well as the Hispanic community. Very interesting!

Rosalind Willis, King’s College London

This was an important conference for me because I had just completed my PhD and I presented some of my findings. The conference theme, Identities, Care and Everyday Life, was very relevant to my own research topic so I found many presentations related to my area of study. I attended several presentations on culture and diversity and was treated to issues of migration, cross-cultural understanding of healthy ageing, and the diverse norms and behaviours surrounding care giving.

It was interesting to see the variety of ways that identity, one of the main conference themes, was presented at the conference. For instance, Sue Venn told us about her sleep study in which participants were reluctant to admit that they slept in separate beds because this threatened their identity as a couple. Eloise Radcliffe talked about how people managed their presentation as a couple after one of them had a stroke, whether as a united front, as hard workers, or as dutiful carers. Mo Ray spoke about how people with dementia who had moved to a care home were enabled to reinforce their identity by carrying out familiar activities such as hanging out washing.

As is often the case at large conferences such as the BSG, I had to choose between interesting looking presentations that were taking place at the same time. Sometimes it is a shame to miss a talk where the abstract looks very good but it clashes with something else that you are determined to see. I wonder if it would be possible in the future to make the presentations available on the internet to delegates after the conference is over, so that we can catch up on those things we just didn't have time to see.

Diane Roberts, Keele University

Intellectual endeavour continued for me on Wednesday with a fantastic session on user involvement in which several non-academic speakers spoke about their roles in research. This highlighted how user involvement in research is not only useful but also provides an alternative perspective which may change the ‘shape’ of research and produce a more relevant ‘real world’ result. The point was made very strongly that it takes significant effort and motivation by researchers to not only involve users at an early stage but also to ensure that they are provided with a range of opportunities for involvement in consultative, collaborative and participatory roles.

Wednesday also allowed us to think about the value and application of mixed methods research; research funding and its dynamic relationship to research activity; plus several informative sessions on the practice implications of encountering and researching various forms of abuse. It was particularly interesting in this stream to hear about a Canadian project in which researchers and practitioners had worked with victims, abusers and agencies (including law enforcement) to find solutions. In addition, Wednesday also provided an opportunity to ‘meet the editors’ from several publishers and journals. This was a very useful session as it provided some insight from experienced editors about the criteria applied to submissions and also encouragement for further discussion post-conference about ideas for publication or delegates’ willingness to serve as reviewers.
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