The Ageing of British Gerontology: End of Project Update

As part of this recently completed Leverhulme-funded research project, eight films, an electronic slide show, and a newspaper broadsheet-type publication are all now available to view. Carried out by Profs Miriam Bernard and Mo Ray, with Dr Jackie Reynolds, the project has explored the evolution of gerontology in the UK since the establishment of the British Society of Gerontology in 1971. Working with WatsOn Media, the filmed biographical interviews with 50 established gerontologists have been edited into a series of eight short thematic films. The films can be accessed on the project’s website ( and are titled as follows:
1. Introducing the Ageing of British Gerontology Project
2. Becoming a Gerontologist
3. To Be, or Not To Be… a Gerontologist
4. Building the Foundations
5. Gerontologists on Ageing
6. Do Gerontologists Ever Retire?
7. Gerontologists’ Collaborations and Connections
8. Gerontology Futures

Photographer, gerontologist and artist Sukey Parnell was also commissioned to produce a series of professional portraits of our interviewees. These images have been developed into a major electronic photographic exhibition, and also appear in a newspaper-type publication along with illustrative quotes from the interviews and information about the project and the participants. Both of these can be accessed on the project’s homepage at
Hard copies of the newspaper are still available free of charge and the whole exhibition (which also includes postcards, individual prints and display banners) is available on loan to other institutions and organisations. Please contact Professor Bernard at if you would like further details.


The Ageing of British Gerontology Project Update

We’re reaching the end of our two-year Leverhulme-funded research project ‘The Ageing of British Gerontology’ and are looking forward to sharing our findings and exhibition with the rest of the world! Working on the project has been tremendously interesting and rewarding, and has certainly kept us all very busy!  So what have we been up to?

  • We have examined materials from the BSG archives, including systematically recording detailed information from BSG annual conference programmes, and issues of Generations Review. We created an electronic exhibition of archive materials, which is available on the project website.
  • We have undertaken in-depth interviews with 50 individuals who have all made a significant contribution to building the gerontological knowledge base in Britain over the past 40-50 years.
  • Face-to- face interviews took place in locations all over the UK. One was undertaken via Skype with a participant now based in Australia.
  • All of the interviews were audio-recorded, and 44 were filmed.
  • All of the interviews have now been analysed using NVivo software.
  • 47 participants have attended photo shoots with artist, photographer and gerontologist Sukey Parnell.

Finding out about our Research

There will be many different ways to find out about our research and its findings: the project exhibition will be launched at the the British Society of Gerontology 46th Annual Conference, hosted by the Centre for Innovative Ageing at Swansea University from July 5th-7th 2017.  The launch will take place there at 4pm on Wednesday 5th July.  The exhibition will include photographic portraits, films and images from the archives. There will also be a newspaper-style publication of the images available free to conference delegates.

The launch will be followed at 4.30pm by a unique opportunity to attend a Roundtable discussion involving six of our project participants: Dr Bill Bytheway, Dr Kate Davidson, Professor Eileen Fairhurst, Tessa Harding, Professor Mike Nolan and Professor Ian Philp. Discussions will explore how being a gerontologist has related to people’s own experiences of ageing, and will take place in the exhibition venue.

We will also present a conference paper entitled:  “Being a Gerontologist: intersections between the professional and the personal in the ‘Ageing of British Gerontology’ project.”  This will take place at 11.45am on Friday 7th July.

If you are unable to join us in Swansea, there will be other opportunities to see the exhibition. It will be available on loan to other institutions, and it will also be available in electronic format on the BSG and our project websites. The series of short films, each focusing on a particular theme, will be available on our project and the BSG websites. In the longer term, we will be producing a book, to be published by Policy Press, and watch this space for details of further publications!

To whet your appetite for the exhibition, here are fantastic images of two of our Roundtable participants: Dr Bill Bytheway and Professor Eileen Fairhurst.

Treasure Hunting in the Archives

Since starting The Ageing of British Gerontology project in July 2015, the three of us (Mim, Mo and Jackie) have spent much of our time with our heads buried in the British Society of Gerontology archives at the Centre for Policy on Ageing! We’re also fortunate to be able to access Mim’s personal archives, accumulated since 1982 when she first began working in the field of Gerontology. We began our archival research by focusing on the BSG Conference programmes, dating back to 1971. These proved to be a rich and interesting source in highlighting progress in British Gerontology. Having all attended numerous BSG Conferences over the years it was fascinating to take an in-depth look at their development. Even the conference titles themselves offer thematic insights: the strongest overall theme that we see in the conference titles is one of change over time. Here’s a ‘Wordle’ featuring conference titles from 1971 to 2015Titled conferences wordle 6As well as tracking such things as the costs of conferences, number of attendees, number of papers, conference sponsors and exhibitors and so on over the years (and taking lots of photographs!), perhaps the most fruitful line of our research has been in analysing the key themes that have featured year-by-year in the papers and (in more recent years) the symposia. This has enabled us to develop a narrative of the developments, focusing on a decade at a time. Alongside this work, we’ve been constructing a timeline of key policy developments, and undertaking a literature review.

As we now enter the rather exciting phase of interviewing the key contributors to the development of British Gerontology (whose names have appeared so regularly in the conference programmes!), it will be fascinating to link people’s recollections and personal stories to the wealth of information that we have gathered so far.

Please note: we’ll be presenting the findings of the archival stage of the research at the BSG Conference in Stirling in July, in a paper session and as an electronic exhibition if you’d like to find out more!

The Ageing of British Gerontology is a two-year Leverhulme-funded project, led by Prof. Miriam Bernard and Prof. Mo Ray and supported by the British Society of Gerontology and the Centre for Policy on Ageing. It is an oral and socio-cultural history of the evolution of the increasingly important inter- and multidisciplinary field of gerontology.

For further details visit:

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