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Who's Who
Sara Arber
Professor Sara Arber is Co-Director of the Centre for Research on Ageing and Gender (CRAG), Department of Sociology, University of Surrey.

Describe yourself in 3 words

Focused, energetic, supportive of students and colleagues.

How did you get here today (career/research)?

I was privileged to join the University of Surrey (as a temporary one year Lecturer) in 1974 following graduate work at the University of Michigan, and have been at Surrey ever since! My early work in the 1970s was on class inequalities in health, which soon developed into a research interest in gender and health. In the mid-1980s, the ESRC launched the first initiative to stimulate research on Ageing, co-ordinated by Margot Jeffreys. I was fortunate to secure two grants under this Ageing initiative – on caregiving and on pensions. At the time, there was a lack of sociological research on ageing, especially on gender and ageing – which has been my research focus ever since.

What’s the best piece of advice you received?

My father’s catch phrase was ‘Keep smiling and enjoy life while you can’ – especially in his later years. As a researcher in ageing, it has always reminded me that we ourselves are all ageing, and have no idea when the ‘grim reaper’ may call, or whether we will experience years of ‘disabled life expectancy’. So, we need to make the most of the life we have, and enjoy whatever we are doing (in my own case, being an academic and researcher).

Who’s the most influential person in your life and why?

It goes without saying my (late) husband, Geoff, and our three children - apart from this, it is Professor Asher Tropp. Asher was my first Head of Department at the University of Surrey, who ably led the Department from its inception in 1967 to the early 1980s. He provided unstinting guidance and support to me in the early stages of my career, and developed the Department of Sociology into a vibrant and collegial place to work (which is why I’ve stayed for 37 years!!).

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?

Professor George Brown was an influential teacher during my Masters in Medical Sociology at Bedford College, who extensively discussed his own research, later published as Social Origins of Depression (1978). This remains an outstanding model of research scholarship – in terms of the integration of qualitative and quantitative research, the ways that analysis can disentangle issues of causality, and the need for careful attention to theory and measurement.

What do you do when you’re not doing ageing research?

Research on sleep, which has been my other research passion for the last 10 years. I was very fortunate that my research interests came together in our recent NDA-funded multidisciplinary project on sleep and ageing (SomnIA). In addition, travel to see culturally and archaeologically interesting, and preferably far-flung, places.

What’s the future for ageing research?

The future for ageing research is very bright, particularly because of the cohort of excellent new researchers and academics who have entered the field of ageing over the last 5-10 years. I will look forward to reading the fruits of their theoretical and policy-related research over the coming years.
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