The speech given by Professor Judith Phillips, Past President of BSG
at the Westminster Launch of Making the Case for the Social Sciences -
Speaking as the president of the British Society
of Gerontology (the BSG) I am delighted to have this opportunity to
launch and promote this important booklet.
Ageing is often described as
one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century; one which is to be
celebrated - the fact that a longer and better quality of life is
achievable presents us with opportunities in relation to employment,
family life, leisure, volunteering and intergenerational relationships.
Many of these opportunities which we now take for granted have been
heralded by decades of excellent quality research in this country on
the social and behavioural aspects of ageing. As well as demonstrating
the potential of our later years, ageing research also provides the
evidence needed to underpin sustainable policies and practices to meet
the needs of our ageing population and represents great value for
money, providing solutions to the needs of later life.
The BSG is a society of 400+
members- academics, researchers, practitioners and policy makers who
are interested in promoting an understanding of ageing and later life.
The BSG brings together researchers from a wide range of disciplines.
Our members come from the social and behavioural sciences; humanities;
medicine; health, housing and social care; policy; voluntary agencies;
graduate and postgraduate students. This multidisciplinary perspective
is one of the key strengths of our society.
We are committed to raising
the profile of ageing research, making the outcomes of our research
more visible, and improving the quality of life of older people. We seek
to achieve this through supporting and promoting the impact of high
quality research, challenging stereotypes and providing an evidence
base for policy and practice. We are a leading academic voice in the
UK, with a world-wide reputation for research on ageing and its
dissemination. Leading members of the society are in constant demand to
speak at major international conferences.
Our commitment to raising the
profile of ageing led us to invite the Academy of Social Sciences and
AgeUK to jointly produce this brochure. We are very pleased that this
idea 18 months ago has resulted in such a prestigious launch and I would
(especially) like to thank the Academy for recognising the importance
of ageing research and including it in their series on ‘making the case
for the social sciences’.
(It is our hope that) the
brochure will enable government and other stakeholders to appreciate
and further their knowledge of the importance of ageing research; to
see its value. It will also provide a key foundation document for
others, outside government, who are working to improve the lives of
older people. Many of the examples of research undertaken by our
members and highlighted in the booklet have been replicated and used in
policy and practice in other countries and contexts. Leading
institutions abroad are interested in drawing on our experience of
documenting and monitoring the outcomes and impact of ageing research
in a similar way.
I'd like to draw your
attention to a few examples in the booklet: examples which illustrate
the vital role which social gerontology plays in exploring issues of
national and global importance - through dementia care mapping
improving the lives of older people in care homes; around financial
provision for later life and through work on older people in deprived
urban areas leading to Help the Aged's £8m Christmas appeal. This
publication reflects the reach and significance of our members’
research portfolio. It also demonstrates the high quality of research
and the international calibre of the people leading ageing research in
It is impossible for a 22 page
booklet to capture the full range and diversity of research on ageing
and later life. Indeed the booklet only captures the briefest executive
summary of each of the areas of work discussed. A major part of our
strategic initiative - to raise the profile of ageing research -
continues with similar examples being showcased on the BSG website - we
will be having a rolling programme of examples making the case for
ageing research and demonstrating impact. I hope the launch of this
brochure will be an invitation and encouragement for people to contact
the BSG and to explore the relevance and functionality of our work to
the needs of society.
Social and behavioural sciences
in general face a difficult time given the current economic situation.
It is imperative that we (AgeUK, BSG and the Academy) collectively
demonstrate the importance and value of ageing research, as well as
provide greater visibility in discussions around social sciences. Given
the value for money of ageing research with clear examples of how
research improves the lives of older people, it will be important to
build on today’s initiative. I see the Society playing a part in
developing and responding to this agenda and hope you agree with me
that this is an excellent start. If anyone would like to make any
comments or raise any questions, please do email BSG at the address on
the brochure. Likewise if you have any of your contributions you would
like to make to the ageing debate please do email.
I would like to thank all who
compiled the brochure on behalf of BSG and all members who contributed
to it. Thank you.
Finally I would like to thank you for coming to the
launch- the significance of the event is illustrated by the diversity
and status of you all.