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Plenary Speakers

We are pleased to announce our renowned keynote plenary speakers for the BSG'S 50th anniversary conference in 2021, hosted online by Lancaster University.

Prof Alison Findlay

With her interest in the lives and portrayal of women in the 1600s, Alison will share her interest in the historical (or maybe not…) demonization of older women and witch persecution, with a focus on the local trial of the Pendle witches.

Keynote Plenary 1: Age, Anxiety and Persecution in the 1612 and 1634 Lancashire Witch Trials

In 1612 the Lancashire authorities defined Anne Whittle, ‘a very old, withered, spent & decrepit creature’ as ‘a dangerous witch’ and persecuted her and her rival ‘old Demdike’ as the leaders of demonic conspiracies. This lecture uses the figures of Whittle (Old Chattox) and Elizabeth Southerns (Old Demdike) to examine why old women posed such a threat in early modern Lancashire and in the country more widely. The lecture demonstrates how the legacy of the 1612 Lancashire witches, which led to a second Lancashire witch trial in 1634, opened up opportunities for reinterpreting the stereotypes which allied age, gender and evil.

Prof Michel Poulain

Michel Poulain introduced the concept of Blue Zones when identifying an area with exceptional longevity area the mountains of Sardinia. He will share the lessons of the Blue Zones and his ongoing search for new Blue Zones.

Keynote Plenary 2: Blue Zones: a model for our ageing society?

Longevity has traditionally been studied at the individual level by identifying specific features, e.g., genetic, nutritional or lifestyle-related, among centenarians. However, during a meeting of researchers contributing to the International Database of Longevity in Montpellier in October 1999, the existence of an area of exceptional longevity was revealed in Sardinia. Although the trustworthiness of the Sardinian data was immediately doubted, the results of the age validation confirmed initial reports. It also became clear that centenarians were not distributed randomly across Sardinia. A specific area of exceptional longevity and higher proportion of centenarians emerged in the most mountainous region of Sardinia. The first time that it was identified on a map, a blue marker was used and, since that time in March 2000, the term Blue Zone was used to identify the longevity hot spot. With the Blue Zone concept, our ability to discover more about exceptional longevity has significantly improved since inhabitants often, for example, have genetic characteristics in common, have experienced the same living conditions since youth and often eat primarily local products.

This lecture will describe the 7 principles gathered from Blue Zone populations and which might be transferred to our advanced and post-industrial societies in order to contribute to improving health and well-being. A central component of the talk will be: can the characteristics of people living in Blue Zones, their lifestyle and environment, both physical and human, help us understand more how to keep older people involved in society and help them live better and longer?

Dr Sandra Hirst

Sandra Hirst has held several leadership positions in gerontology, including president of the Canadian Association on Gerontology, which will also be celebrating their 50th Anniversary in 2021. She will share her passion for the stories of older adults and the learning acquired from listening to them.

Keynote Plenary 3: “As a wee lassie…” The Benefits of Narrational Relationships in the Lives of Older Adults

Let’s explore a journey filled with opportunities to listen to stories. Every older adult holds numerous stories within them based on experience and the passing of years. By encouraging older adults to be story tellers, we learn where they have been, where they have lived, and who they are. We hear their voices and hopefully respond. This type of interaction, perhaps between a clinician providing care or an academic conducting research and an older adult, is the narrative relationship.

However, in narrative research, it is essential to follow identified themes beyond the individual stories, of older adults, through to analysis at a social level. The researcher needs to understand the significance of the narrative for others and for society. Narrative research lends itself well to studies of changes in a society. In this presentation, I will examine three themes: the meaning of stories; the value of story telling in the of lives for older adults; and the role of narrative research in promoting societal change. Intertwined throughout my comments will be three ethical issues: informed consent, story telling and story listening, and the quandary of involvement.

Key Deadlines & Dates

1 July 2020
Abstract Submission Now Open
20 January 2021
Abstract Submission Deadline
7 February 2021
50@50 Bursary Application Deadline
25 March 2021
Abstract Notifications
29 April 2021
Early Bird Registration Deadline
6 July 2021
The ERA Pre-Conference Event
7 July 2021 to 9 July 2021
 British Society of Gerontology 49th Annual Conference