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Reviews of the British Society of Gerontology conference, Bristol, September 2009, by BSG Bursary award holder

I was awarded a bursary from the British Society of Gerontology to attend and present at the 2009 annual conference held at the University of the West of England in September.  Although I had attended the ERA conference in 2008, I had not been to a BSG conference before.  As a PhD student, I felt immediately welcomed by the more established BSG attendees.  Almost invariably the first question people asked me during the social parts of the conference was, “Is this your first time at BSG?”  Although delegates were clearly enjoying meeting up with old friends, they were also keen to meet new people and I, as a newcomer to the gerontology scene, never felt left out.

The chance to present my research at the BSG conference was a valuable experience.  It was heartening to be given positive feedback from audience members.  It is always interesting to present to a new audience and note the different aspects of the subject that people ask questions about.  This helps, not only to improve future presentations, but also to prepare for the viva.

There was an impressive selection of symposia and parallel sessions at the conference.  It was always difficult to choose which sessions to attend because there were so many interesting topics on offer.  Nonetheless, I was able to attend several talks of direct relevance to my PhD.  This undoubtedly was attributable to the conference topic ‘Culture, Diversity and Ageing’, which is closely linked to my research on ethnic diversity and informal support.  As a result I saw presentations on useful topics from other PhD students, as well as academics I have referenced in my own work.

A highlight for me was the Diversity and Discrimination session on Thursday morning, where we had an engaging talk on the changing meaning of reciprocity in Tokyo and Shanghai by Misa Izuhara, and a report on an impressive qualitative study comparing attitudes to informal care across ten ethnic groups in Bradford.  Gianfranco Giuntoli cautioned us against assuming that any and all differences between ethnic groups can be put down to an unexplored concept of ‘culture’.

One of the most useful aspects of attending a conference like this is the chance to put faces to the famous names one reads about on a daily basis in a PhD and, because of the friendliness of the conference, one could easily approach these big names during the coffee breaks.  The importance of the BSG conference for networking in the gerontology world was immediately apparent.  It wasn’t just academics either - I met people from Age Concern and Help the Aged who were very interested in what my colleagues and I were working on.

Just before the official start of the conference, the Emerging Researchers in Ageing committee had arranged for a workshop on publishing gerontological research.  This meeting was an excellent idea.  It served twin purposes: we got valuable insights into the publishing process from Christina Victor and Jill Manthorpe, and we also got to meet the other ERA members.  This meant that those who had not met other ‘emerging researchers’ before, had a ready made peer group from the start of the conference.

Overall it was a most valuable experience, and I hope to attend next year.  Thank you to the BSG for giving me the bursary and enabling my attendance at such a great conference.

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