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Lifelong Ageing – talking across disciplines and sectors

Ageing is often associated with older people and with ideas of disease and decline. But at a biological level, ageing begins at birth – ‘growing up’ is part of the same process as ‘growing old’.

When our population is getting older and amid a social care crisis, what might research, care and community look like if we understood ageing as a lifelong process that unites rather than divides us?

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The live illustration of our Lifelong Ageing event – by Camille Aubry


As part of the SAACY programme, we ran an event called Lifelong Ageing at Science Gallery London in May 2023. This was a workshop for early career researchers (ECRs) and representatives from local and national charities and other third-sector organisations focussed on the theme of ageing as a lifelong process. Funding was from UK Research and Innovation and the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

The project emerged as a direct result of a Policy Lab which the SAACY team ran with the Policy Institute at King’s in September 2022. One of the key next steps emerging out of the lab was the increased need for productive conversations between academics and those working in charities and other third-sector organisations, primarily because charity partners desire, and are equipped, to help shape academic research projects.

We invited up-and-coming researchers from across the UK to showcase their work to an audience of charity and third sector professionals, sharing their understanding of ageing as a lifelong process and getting feedback from people working on the ground. We had a range of speakers from departments as diverse as Neuroscience, Anthropology, Music, Medicine and English, all working on projects that take a lifecourse perspective.

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Esca van Blarikom speaking about ‘flourishing’ and its relation to how old we feel.

Each set of talks was followed by at least twenty minutes of discussion time, as well as much needed tea and coffee. During these, conversations revolved around the questions: What does it mean to flourish as we age? How can technological, intersectional or intergenerational approaches help ageing research? And, most importantly, how can we make our research relevant to people’s everyday realities?

There was a really great buzz in the room on the day and conversations allowed professionals working at national and local levels in the community to question and inspire the academics in the room. Although from such a wide range of disciplines and approaches, many of the talks resonated with each other in meaningful ways and produced interesting parallels. The mood was neatly captured by Camille Aubry’s live illustration of the day’s conversation (pictured at the top of this post).

As part of SAACY’s work, we want to continue starting better conversations like this, which need to take place if we are going to tackle important issues like ageing. If you’d like to run a similar event we have produced a report about Lifelong Ageing and are in the process of writing an academic article including a how-to guide for future similar events.

In this story

Joe Wood

Joe Wood

Research Associate (Policy and Engagement – Ageing Studies)


The Sciences of Ageing and the Culture of Youth (SAACY) is a project funded by a UK Research and Innovation Future Leaders Fellowship. It looks at how we talk and think about ageing and how…

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