Research Programme

Funded by the Leverhulme Trust (2015-17), our project examines the evolution of gerontology in Britain over the past 40-50 years: specifically since the establishment of the British Society of Gerontology in 1971. The rationale for doing so includes:

  • A continuing lack of consensus about what exactly gerontology consists of, how it is best defined, or where its boundaries may lie. It is a contested and debated term and field of study.
  • The proliferation of terms, specialties and contributory disciplines is seen on the one hand to call into question the status of gerontology and, on the other hand, to provide evidence of the dynamic inter and multidisciplinary nature of the field. It therefore merits further exploration, analysis and understanding. 
  • Given that many of British gerontology’s key contributors are now retired or approaching retirement, it is timely to try to capture their experiences before the opportunity is lost. 

We will examine gerontology’s evolution through the contributions and experiences of senior figures in British gerontology and we will contextualise, supplement and integrate this new empirical work with a detailed examination of the archives of the British Society of Gerontology. Long-established gerontologists are well placed to help us articulate possible future directions because of their unique historical vantage point and, for many, their continued involvement with ageing research and their mentorship of younger colleagues.

Specifically, the research questions we seek to answer are:  

1. How has British gerontology evolved as a field of study, since the founding of the British Society of Social and Behavioural Gerontology (now the British Society of Gerontology) in 1971?

2. What key developments and changes are evident in gerontological research, theory, policy and practice over this period, as captured in the BSG’s archive?

3. How has gerontology been understood, conceptualised and evolved, as seen through the eyes of those senior British gerontologists who have been fundamental to its creation and development?

4. As gerontologists themselves age, what connections if any are there between the professional and the personal: between their own experiences of age and ageing and the influence, or not, this has exerted on their research and their reflexive engagement with the ageing process?

5. What implications do the archival and empirical findings have for academic colleagues and others interested in studying, and responding to, the challenges of population ageing?