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Message from the President
Professor Miriam Bernard

I am writing this contribution to Generations Review in my capacity as your new President and with the memories of our recent and highly successful conference at Brunel still very fresh. For those of you unable to make it you missed a truly excellent and extremely full programme: thought-provoking keynote papers; a dazzling array of symposia and parallel sessions; linked events for early career researchers and those interested in social work with older adults; the awards of various prestigious prizes and celebrations including the long overdue recognition of Professor Anthea Tinker’s contributions to gerontology; the 30th anniversary of the journal Ageing and Society; and the warm welcomes and contributions from the organising team as well as from the various sponsors of the conference including AgeUK, Policy Press, Brunel’s Institute for Ageing Studies, the New Dynamics of Ageing Programme and the London Borough of Hillingdon.

For me, one of the highlights had to be the Tuesday night quiz (thank-you team - the cup and medal included in our party bags now have pride of place on the shelves in my study at home!), perhaps run a close second by the conference evaluation sheets which, amongst other things, asked us to rate – as ‘smart’, ‘tidy’, ‘colourful’ or ‘noticeable’ - the organising team’s outfits. I’m assuming these results will be passed to Julia Twigg to add to her accumulating and fascinating expositions on clothing and age? As an organising team, you did the Society proud and we are indebted to you all.

As members will know, the Society is now working to a five-year strategy (2009-2014) under the title ‘Raising the Profile of Ageing Research’. I have had the good fortune to be able to help develop and begin to see this strategy take shape over the last 18 months, working with our committed executive and under the enthusiastic leadership of my good friend and colleague Judith Phillips. As past-President, Judith will continue to stay involved in elements of this strategy whilst our new President-elect - Robin Means - is fully signed up to what we are trying to achieve. I would therefore like to take this opportunity formally to thank Judith, on behalf of the membership, for having the vision and drive to help steer us in a more strategic direction than has perhaps been possible with our previous two-year cycles of activity.

The successes that Judith reported on at the AGM and in her President’s Report for that meeting are also due, in no small part, to the contributions of many executive committee members and other members of the Society who have worked tirelessly with us on particular activities. To Debora Price, outgoing Treasurer, we owe a particular debt of gratitude for her sterling work in managing the Society’s finances with good grace and without losing her sense of humour! In addition, both Sheila Peace and Julia Twigg have stepped down from the committee this year. In Sheila’s case, she will remain as our link person with the International Longevity Centre-UK as we take forward the exciting new developments she has initiated and following the signing of a ‘memorandum of collaboration’; while we anticipate that Julia (together with our Secretary Wendy Martin), will be co-editing a forthcoming book for the Society on cultural gerontology.

As the activities around our strategy move into their second full year, we have to be cognisant of the fact that the external environment has undergone some major changes over recent months, the results of which will be playing out over the next two to three years. This may mean a refocusing and re-prioritising of some aspects of the initiatives being pursued under the auspices of our various Task/Working Groups. That said, I see us building steadily on the progress we have made especially in the areas of:

  • professionalising our administrative structures and better servicing the needs of our members (the appointment of Rachel Hazelwood has been invaluable in this respect);
  • extending the visibility of the society and the work of our members following the successful launch of the Impact Brochure on July 20th and in the light of the ILC-UK developments already noted;
  • supporting and encouraging the major steps which have been made by the BSG-ERA group; and
  • continuing the work and discussions about the Society’s identity which has already involved the redesign of the website alongside the membership survey which has yielded findings for both the Executive and members to consider further.

Our plans for the second full year of operationalising the strategy also include further work on sponsorship, expanding opportunities for postgraduate and postdoctoral students, scoping the potential for linkages with other societies and with the media, and developing additional ways of communicating our key messages to each other, to funders and to political and other influential leaders. Finally, on a personal note, I would also like us to think a bit more creatively about how best we might be able to engage the considerable talents, experience and expertise of our membership – especially those members who, whilst technically ‘retired’ or soon to retire, are still very committed to ageing research, policy and practice. Any thoughts or ideas on these plans – or indeed on other issues – would be very welcome.

I very much look forward to the next two years: to working with the Executive, the other officers (past, present and future - Wendy Martin as Secretary and Sue Venn as Secretary-elect; Kate Bennett as Treasurer, Debora Price as past-Treasurer and Veronika Williams as Treasurer-elect; and Judith Phillips and Robin Means as past-President and President-elect respectively), and with the two Rachels (Hazelwood and  Pitman), in order to serve the needs of you all as members, and to further encourage those interested in our areas of work and research to see the BSG as their logical and natural home for all things age-related.

Mim Bernard
July 2010

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