I am a ‘Keelite’ through and through first arriving here as an undergraduate student and graduating in 1976 with a Combined Honours degree in English Literature and Geography (with Psychology and Geology subsidiary subjects). After a year away, I returned to undertake my PhD (in Social/Human Geography) and have lived and worked in the Potteries ever since.
I ended up in ‘ageing’ completely by accident having been appointed to a temporary nine-month contract to manage a small research team at the Beth Johnson Foundation (a voluntary organisation known for its innovative work with older people). I stayed for six years as the Foundation’s Research Officer where I undertook a variety of projects before returning to Keele in 1988 to help set up the first programmes in Gerontology (Certificate, Diploma and Masters) outside London. I was promoted to Senior Lecturer in October 1995, Reader in September 1997 and, in May 1999, was awarded a personal Chair. In addition to research and teaching, I have variously been Head of the Department of Applied Social Studies, Head of the School of Social Relations and Founder Director of the Research Institute for Life Course Studies. I was President-Elect, President and Past-President of the British Society of Gerontology from 2008-2014.
I am now ‘flexibly retired’ and focus my time on my Leverhulme funded ‘Ageing of British Gerontology’ project; seeing through my two remaining PhD students; and writing. In my spare time, I co-direct the now annual Live Age Festival and support the Ages and Stages Theatre Company (both of which originate in our interdisciplinary RCUK funded ‘Ages and Stages’ research projects).
Research and scholarship
Building on a background of innovative participatory action-research with older people in the voluntary sector, my research career has been distinguished by a commitment to inter and multi-disciplinary perspectives and much of my written work combines social scientific research with insights drawn from literature and the arts. I have long-standing research interests in women’s lives as they age, in intergenerational relationships and in environmental gerontology. My 30 years’ experience of applied policy and practice-relevant research has included studies of the family life of older people conducted under the ESRC’s ‘Population and Household Change’ programme; of informal care for older adults under the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s ‘Work and Family Life’ programme (for which we won the 2002 Work-Life Balance Trust Award for non-fiction); and a decade of research on the development of new retirement villages (one of Keele’s REF 2014 Impact Case Studies).
Since 2009, I have had the privilege of leading the interdisciplinary ‘Ages and Stages’ projects (an ongoing collaboration with the New Vic Theatre), funded initially under the national cross-council ‘New Dynamics of Ageing’ Programme and, subsequently, with AHRC follow-on funding; and two AHRC ‘Cultural Value Project’ awards (see: www.keele.ac.uk/agesandstages/). These projects have led to the establishment of the Ages and Stages Theatre Company and the now annual Live Age Festival which began in 2014 (see: www.liveagefestival.co.uk/). I currently lead a two-year (2015-17) project entitled ‘The Ageing of British Gerontology: learning from the past to inform the future’, funded by the Leverhulme Trust. This is a fascinating socio-cultural exploration of the evolution of gerontology as seen through the eyes of those who have been active in building its knowledge base, and through an examination of the archives of the British Society of Gerontology (see: www.keele.ac.uk/abg/).
I also enjoy supervising higher degree by research students. I currently supervise two PhD students and, since 1995, have seen 20 others through to successful completion (17 PhDs; 2 MPhils and 1 MA by research). I am the author/editor of 19 books and monographs, over 80 book chapters and journal articles, and many research reports. I currently serve on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Intergenerational Relationships: programs, policy and research.
I am now flexibly retired and, in addition to PhD supervision, do occasional guest lectures and presentations at Keele and elsewhere.