EVENT: Materialities of Age and Ageing


Materialities of Age and Ageing

Discussions at the Intersection of Age Studies and Science-and-Technology Studies

The event is run by the international Socio-Gerontechnology network

7th July.2020

9 AM – 12:30 PM (EDT)

3 PM – 6:30 PM (CET)

2 PM – 5.30pm (BST)

Where? Online (Link will be sent out after registration)

Who? The event targets everyone interested in ageing & technology, specifically early career researchers. We aim to bring together researchers at the intersection of Age Studies and Science-and-Technology Studies to reflect upon the use of different concepts of materialities in ageing research and discuss prospects and problems in their empirical application.

How? To register for the event, you need to  sign up on our Eventbrite page, we will then send you the online log in. Please sign up before July 3rd 

Programme of the event (NB all timings in Central European Time)

3pm: Introductions

3.15pm Introductory remarks: The Middle Ground of Socio-Gerontechnology Prospects and Problems

Stephen Katz

4pm Reflections from the ECR Network “Material Gerontology”

Grit Höppner & Mona Urban, Cordula Endter, Anna Wanka & Vera Gallistl

4.45pm Break

5pm Perspectives from Socio-Gerontechnology Network

Alexander Peine & Louis Neven, Helen Manchester & Juliane Jarke, Nete Schwennesen & Daniel Lopez

6pm Wrap up, general discussion

6.30pm Close

About us: The Socio-Gerontechnology network brings together scholars interested in critical studies of ageing and technology. The network started from a joint interest of scholars in Science and Technology Studies – beginning to see ageing as an important field for critical studies of technology – and Ageing Scholars – beginning to see digitization and technology as important but under-researched elements of ageing and later life. Our aim is to provide critical social science insights into ageing and technology that will lead to better policies and designs for older people in a digitizing world.

The Fourth International Workshop on Socio-gerontechnology in Bristol, UK

Dates: 29th and 30th June, 2020

The call for papers

Interdisciplinarity and multiple methods: Building new models, theories and approaches to ageing and technology

Historically technology designs for those in later life have often been produced in labs by computer scientists and engineers.  However, more recently, there has been a move towards interdisciplinarity and a recognition of the important role of both social scientists and arts and humanities scholars (including design researchers) in these research and design processes. This raises the necessity of mapping and analyzing the distinctive contributions of these disciplines and specifically the modes of interdisciplinary collaboration that are emerging in the field. In order to investigate the multiple knowledge forms and practices associated with interdisciplinary research, and the challenges related to establishing the conditions required to support interdisciplinary collaborations (Barry, Born and Strathern, 2007) we invite papers that explore these assertions in reflecting on what happens when scholars at the crossroads of STS and Age Studies (broadly defined) engage in interdisciplinary research and practice with others? What logics govern these interdisciplinary encounters? What radical new models emerge through interdisciplinarity for the fields of ageing and technology? How do multiple methods emerge in design and research processes? (How) do these collaborations lead to better policies and practices in relation to technology design and innovation for older people?

We invite scholars working across disciplinary boundaries to explore themes related to their critical interdisciplinary engagement in ageing and technology debates. Whilst our network is focused on contributions from STS and Age Studies we are interested in fostering critical interdisciplinary debate about the design and role of technologies in relation to the lives of older people. For this workshop, we invite contributions from a wide disciplinary background in the social sciences, arts and humanities, including but not limited to critical and cultural gerontology, science and technology studies, sociology, anthropology, age studies, HCI and education.

Themes may include (but are not limited to):

  • Interdisciplinary design approaches for, with and by older people
  • Multiple methods in studying ageing and technology
  • New modes of interdisciplinary collaborations
  • Ethics in interdisciplinary research
  • Institutional forms and how they influence interdisciplinary work in ageing and technology
  • Policy and practice entanglements
  • Materialities and temporalities in interdisciplinary research
  • Interdisciplinary understandings and/or methods of care

We encourage participants to submit proposals in a variety of forms. Please send up to 300 words by 31st January 2020 proposing one of the following directly to helen.manchester@bristol.ac.uk.

  • A 15 minute academic paper
  • A 45-60 minute workshop
  • A poster presentation or showcase of a technology design

We will send confirmation of acceptance of your submission by March 1st, 2020

NB If you are an early career researcher who has no funding to enable you to attend please indicate this on your submission as we have received some funding to support the attendance of ECRs who would otherwise be unable to attend.

The Socio-gerontechnology network

The Socio-gerontechnology network of researchers share an interest in exploring the entanglements of ageing and technologies. The network seeks to strengthen critical and reflexive thinking and research by emphasizing the complex and co-constitutive relationship between ageing, technology and society. It brings together international scholars from a variety of disciplinary background (i.e. critical and cultural gerontology, science and technology studies (STS), sociology, anthropology, age studies, HCI and education) and provides a forum for productive, open and supportive exchange and dialogue, with the aim of fostering curiosity, reflexivity and enthusiasm for researching the topic. The network embraces both early and more established academic scholars but has a particular emphasis on activities that support early career scholars. After previous meetings in Vienna (2017), Barcelona (2018) and Stockholm (2019), this is the fourth annual workshop of the Socio-Gerontechnology Network.


University of Bristol is located in the beautiful city of Bristol, UK, famous for balloons, Wallace and Gromit, Roni Size (amongst others) and summer festivals. The School of Education is located centrally in the city and (despite the hills) is only a short walk from most city centre hotels.


The venue for the conference will be: School of Education, University of Bristol, Room 4.10. The School is located at 35 Berkeley Square, Bristol, BS8 1JA.

Here are some Bristol Hotels in the city centre- all within walking distance of the conference venue – but up a relatively steep hill.

The University is in the Clifton area of the city and for a fabulous view of the Bristol Suspension Bridge you might want to try this hotel:
The other Hotel du Vin in town is also good:
Other hotels in the Clifton area include cheaper options:
The Berkeley Square Hotel is right opposite the School of Education
Of course there are plenty of really lovely Airbnbs in Bristol – look for ones in Clifton, Cotham, Redland, City Centre, Harbourside, Wapping Wharf or Southville/ Montpelier which are areas not far from the Centre and the University.


The conference is free to attend. Please register for the conference at this link.

Social Dinner

There will be a social dinner for all attendees who wish to come. This will take place on 29th June.

NB Please note the British Society of Gerontology will be holding their annual conference in Bristol this year directly following this event (1-3 July). Please consider submitting an application for this conference too https://www.britishgerontology.org/Display.aspx?iid=31162

Travel to Bristol

Firstly just to say our University has declared a climate emergency so we do encourage people to consider not flying if at all possible but understand this can be difficult for those with caring responsibilities or health issues.

Train travel: Bristol Temple Meads is the train station in the city centre so if you are travelling my train go for this one.

Eurostar stops at London St Pancras and from there you need to get to London Paddington (look out for the bear!) to get to Bristol Temple Meads. London to Bristol takes between 1hour 20 mins and 1 hour 40 mins depending which train you catch.

You can book train travel through the National Rail website or alternatively through Trainline (nicer interface but they charge a small booking fee)

Bus travel: There are also regular buses from London to Bristol which take a bit longer – dependent on traffic of course!

You can book bus travel through National Express

Flights: If you are flying there are some direct flights to Bristol airport and there is a bus from the airport to the city centre as well as taxis available. Taxis cost around £35 one way into the city centre.

If you are flying into Gatwick or Heathrow you can either catch trains or buses to Bristol. Heathrow is nearer to Bristol and there is a direct bus service from the terminal there. Trains from Heathrow go via Reading but are also relatively frequent. Gatwick is a bit harder but you can get to London and from there catch either a train or bus to Bristol.

Please do get in touch if you need any further or bespoke travel advice and I will do my best to help!

Intergenerational Relations Events

On 5th June 2019, the Ageing and the Life Course Faculty Research Group (University of Bristol) organised a series of events on Intergenerational Relations, including presentations, panel discussions, a keynote speech and networking activities. The events brought together a cross-disciplinary research team of academics from across the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law, Faculty of Engineering and Faculty of Health Sciences of the University of Bristol, as well as external collaborators and Invited speakers: Simon Biggs (Melbourne University), Ann-Kristin Boström (Jönköping University), Gregory Mannion (University of Stirling) and Robert Vanderbeck (University of Leeds).

In the morning a series of presentations and discussions took place. These included:

  • Karen West and Helen Manchester‘Intergenerational futures in an era of radical uncertainty’.
    As co-leads of this inter-disciplinary group, Karen and Helen presented some preliminary thoughts on the development of intergenerational relations as an ‘inter-discipline’ and an outline inter-disciplinary research agenda.
  • Robert Vanderbeck‘Intergenerational Method and Practice:
    Reflections from INTERSECTION’.

    Drawing from a multinational collaborative project INTERSECTION: Intergenerational Justice, Consumption, and Sustainability in Comparative Perspective, Robert focused on issues of both method and practice in relation to contemporary intergenerational relationships. He provided examples and reflections concerning how to research and understand the nature of generational relationships (whether within or beyond families), how to promote improved intergenerational relationships, and how to address broader social and environmental challenges with intergenerational practice.
  • Ann-Kristin Böstrom‘Intergenerational relationships: concept, history and context’.
    Ann-Kristin drew on her extensive knowledge and experience of UNESCO-funded European and international networks to reflect on global developments in research on intergenerational programs and intergenerational learning. Her presentation highlighted important differences in perspective on intergenerational solidarity and practice in rural and urban settings.
  • Greg Mannion– ‘Assembling Intergenerational Arenas for Learning and Education’.
    Greg’s presentation presented findings from two intergenerational programs in learning and education in Scotland: Stories in the Land- on the Tracks of the Highland Drovers, and the Storytribe, each of which involved multi-generational groups with backgrounds in storytelling, singing, art, geography, history and drama. From these examples, Greg offered interesting theoretical insights into processes of intergenerational learning, why and how to generate new intergenerational meanings, practices and arenas.
Stories in the Land- on the Tracks of the Highland Drovers local crofter, Ronnie, who took part in the last drove in 1949 as a boy who told them stories of his past experience. 

Following these introductory presentations, a panel discussion explored the further development of an interdisciplinary research programme in relation to Intergenerational Relationships. Discussions focused on conceptual frameworks, and in particular the notion of Generational Intelligence as an organising concept, the interconnections between different disciplines and research domains, possible methodological innovations, and potential work packages.

This workshop was followed by a public event, in which Simon Biggs gave a public lecture on the theme of ‘Negotiating Intergenerational Relations in a Changing Demographic Landscape’. In his keynote, Simon addressed his Generational Intelligence approach to understanding and advancing age relations in the context of demographic change. He suggested that cultural adaptation to a longer life and the so-called ‘rectangularisation’ of the population has been slow to move beyond settled ideas of conflict, solidarity, ambivalence and continuity.  A number of tensions were examined: between positive and negative forms of discontinuity, positive forms of othering, within-age and between-age thinking, and, present and lifecourse centred perspectives. Simon argued that a key element to achieving a sustainable generational settlement and to future-proofing policy and other initiatives from an intergenerational perspective, lies in the development of capacities to put oneself in the place of ‘the age-other’. Simon’s lecture, together with the interventions of Ann-Kristin Boström and Gregory Mannion stimulated lively discussions with the audience, comprised of academics, practitioners and policy makers, about generational differences and what demographic change means for younger and older generations and for the future of intergenerational relations.

The event was attended by a range of key organisations, including the International Longevity Centre UK (ILC), the Housing Learning and Improvement Network and The Care Forum, as well as members of the public and academics. We are grateful to all participants who contributed to these events and we look forward to working further to develop an exciting interdisciplinary research agenda together with these partners in the future.

We would love to hear your feedback and interests in collaboration in the field of intergenerational relations, please email Karen.west@bristol.ac.uk or Helen.manchester@bristol.ac.uk.

Death Talk and Loss Talk in an Age of Longevity – A Conversation with the facilitators of Talk

Dying Matters Awareness Week (13th -19th May 2019) aims to promote conversations on dying, death and bereavement. On 14thMay 2019, a cross-disciplinary research team, which includes academics from across the University of Bristol  (School of Education, School for Policy Studies and Bristol Medical School) and a lay expert in patient and public involvement, marked Dying Matters Awareness Week with an event on ‘Death Talk and Loss Talk in an Age of Longevity’. This involved a variety of facilitators of death talk and loss talk across a diverse range of settings:

  • Project Eileen, a multi-media project aimed at changing attitudes towards death and grief among young people;
  • Arnos Vale Cemetery, host to the inspiring annual 4-day event ‘Life, Death and the Rest’;
  • Anchor Hanover, provider of specialist housing and care for people in later life in England;
  • Forget Me Not Pet Crematorium, provider of professional, dignified, sympathetic Pet Cremation Service;
  • Bristol Ageing Better, a partnership of individuals and organisations working together to reduce isolation and loneliness among older people in Bristol.
  • Bristol Dementia Wellbeing Service, personal dementia support for Bristol people delivered by the Bristol Dementia Partnership, which brings together Alzheimer’s Society and Devon Partnership NHS Trust.
  • Lyn Heathcote, who is a Funeral Celebrant & End of life Doula.

This project and event was funded by the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute’s Research Strand on Bioethics, Biolaw and Biosociety. It aims at understanding what kinds of conversations can and do take place in an ‘age of longevity’, in which a certain cultural expectation of ‘a good long life’ is matched by expectations that we will make adequate preparations over the life-course for living that good long life as independently as possible.

From left to right:  Hannah Rumble (School of Education, University of Bristol); Karen West (School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol); Louise Poffley (Project Eileen); Helen Manchester (School of Education, University of Bristol);  Annabelle Shaw (Project Eileen); Liz Lloyd (School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol).

The event started with the following talks: Karen West (School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol) introduced the project and highlighted recent calls from policy makers and cultural leaders for structured and facilitated conversations about death, dying and loss.  In order to stimulate group discussion, Liz Lloyd (School for Policy Studies) presented some findings of people’s thoughts about death at ‘a near but uncertain time’ from her recent research on ‘Maintaining Dignity in Later Life’.

The discussions covered a wide range of topics including:

  • the challenges for facilitators in starting conversations about death and dying and the use of artefacts in facilitating this;
  • how we regard ourselves as dying as such when expectations of a very long life are becoming the norm;
  • the different ways in which people engage with their own and others’ death and dying;
  • the ways in which the death of pets can trigger conversations about human death;
  • how children are often more inclined to talk about death and dying than their adult guardians and representatives; the dangers of glamorising death and dying;
  • and the ways in which certain marginalised groups are excluded from participating in talking about death and dying, such as those with dementia or the homeless.

As Melanie Chalder (Bristol Medical School) noted, the conversations illustrated how – with input and guidance from people who are accustomed to talking about loss and death – some of the most challenging of subjects we face in everyday life can be handled with openness, warmth and even humour.

The discussion groups.

We were delighted that such a diverse audience wanted to participate in the discussions. We are also very pleased that the facilitators of death talk and loss talk expressed their wish to continue talking to each other about these issues.  The Bristol team hopes to be engaging further with these groups and other members of the general public over the coming months as we work towards developing a research proposal to explore these questions and issues further.

Project team: Karen West, Melanie Chalder, Hannah Rumble, Helen Manchester, Kim Harman, Ailsa Cameron, Jon Symonds, Randall Smith, Liz Lloyd, Ellie Johnson, Alex Vickery, Wenjing Zhang.

If you would like to find out more information about the project or join us, please email: wenjing.zhang@bristol.ac.uk or Karen.west@bristol.ac.uk.

Upcoming event:Migration, Ageing and Digital Kinning

Migration, Ageing and Digital Kinning: The role of distant care support networks in experiences of ageing well

11 June 2019, 12.00 PM – 11 June 2019, 1.00 PM

Prof. Loretta Baldassar

Room 4.05/06, School of Education, 35 Berkeley Square, Bristol, BS8 1JA

This event is part of the School of Education’s ‘Bristol Conversations in Education’ seminar series. It is presented in conjunction with the Faculty Ageing and the Lifecourse group. These seminars are free and open to the public.

Speaker: Prof. Loretta Baldassar

High rates of migration contribute to the dispersal of support networks across distance and national borders. For older people reliant on informal care for social support, this creates a high risk of increased social isolation. In this paper, we examine the importance of distant support networks maintained with communication technologies, through a process of ‘digital kinning’. We draw on data from a qualitative research project conducted in Australia (2016-19) with over 100 older migrants (55+) born in eight countries comprising ethnographic interviews recording participants’ histories of migration, experiences of ageing, care and support networks and uses of technology and network maps comparing experiences and practices of proximate and distant support networks. Results show that older migrants in Australia overcome significant obstacles to maintain their informal support networks across distance through practices of ‘digital kinning’. The geographically distant social networks they maintain are essential sources of social connection and support, cultural identity, and protection of social identity. Although essential to the wellbeing of older migrants, distant support networks and the digital kinning practices that sustain them receive little attention from policy makers and health practitioners. We argue that organisations concerned with care of older people must improve awareness of distant support networks and support digital kinning practices. This could range from including distant kin in healthcare plans to prioritising digital inclusion initiatives.


Contact information

Emma Rossiter

Upcoming event: Negotiating intergenerational relations in a changing demographic landscape

Date: Wed, 5 June 2019, 16:00 – 18:30
Location: Room 3.30, Wills Memorial Building
Queen’s Road
University of Bristol
Please do sign up on the EventBrite if you are able to come and share widely.
The Ageing And The Lifecourse Research Group (Faculty Of Social Sciences And Law) Invites You To A Keynote Speech OnNegotiatingIntergenerational Relations In A Changing Demographic LandscapeBy Simon Biggs, Professor Of Gerontology & Social Policy, Melbourne University, Australia, With Discussants Ann-Kristin Boström (Jönköping University) And Gregory Mannion (University Of Stirling).
The demographics of population ageing are well known, yet cultural adaptation has been slow to gain momentum, beyond notions of continuing to stay as one is. Current narratives include extended working, mid-lifestyle consumption or resisting changing lifecourse priorities. It is suggested that cultural adaptation contains at least two principal challenges: finding novel purpose and contribution from a long life that are connected to changing lifecourse priorities, plus negotiating a situation where generational groups are becoming approximately the same size.
A key element in understanding intergenerational relations would be the relative capacity to put oneself in the place of the age-other and this talk will examine the idea of generational intelligence in this context. A number of tensions will be examined as a means of interrogating this increasingly contested landscape, each of which have implications on how age relations can be negotiated and new forms of active engagement might be created: between positive and negative forms of discontinuity, positive forms of othering, within-age and between-age thinking, and, present and lifecourse centred perspectives. Each would contribute toward the conceptual tools we need to make generationally informed judgements about age-related interventions and to future-proof policy and other initiatives from an intergenerational perspective.
Registration will take place from 15:45 with the talk beginning at 16:00. Drinks and nibbles will be served following the talk and Q&A session from 17:30.This is a FREE event but places should be booked. When registering please let us know if you have any access requirements.For more information or to register over the phone please contact myself directly or Dr Wenjing Zhang. Email: wenjing.zhang@bristol.ac.uk Telephone: 0117 331 0732.

Loneliness Across the Lifecourse Event

The Alonely Monologues were originally performed at a festival at Somerset House

On Friday April 5th the Ageing and the Lifecourse faculty research group held a seminar entitled ‘Loneliness across the lifecourse’. Speakers included James Duggan from Manchester Metropolitan University, Pam Qualter from the University of Manchester and our own Paul Willis (Policy Studies). A video was also shown of the Alonely Monologues performed and produced by community researchers who worked alongside Jenny Barke (Historical Studies), Helen Manchester (School of Education) and BS3 Community on a co-produced research project developed through the Productive Margins programme.

We were delighted that a very diverse audience came along to participate in the event including colleagues from across the university from the faculty of social science, but also the medical school and the faculty of arts. In addition, a number of external collaborators and interested members of the public attended, including representatives from BS3 Community and community navigators working for LinkAge Bristol.

Images from the Loneliness Connects Us project

Several speakers pointed out that loneliness is being discussed as ‘a new social epidemic’, a giant evil of our time. Loneliness was discussed in this seminar as an issue that should be explored across the lifecourse. However, two peak times for loneliness were discussed – these being adolescence and older age. Research projects and findings were presented around both of these key times of life. Following the Alonely Monologues (not dry eye in the house) James presented a co-produced project, funded by the Cooperative Foundation, with young people ‘Loneliness Connects Us’.

Paul Willis then presented on his NIHR research exploring marginalised older men’s experience of loneliness.

Pam Qualter: University of Manchester

Pam Qualter has been studying loneliness for many years and understands loneliness as a journey throughout our lives. She pointed out that loneliness is often a normative response to social situations and is something that all of us will undoubtedly feel at some point in our lives. Aside from this there is extensive research that suggests that 10-11% of people feel lonely all of the time and that this number has not changed since 1940 (in relation to older people) and 2002 (in relation to young people when the first research around youth loneliness was conducted). Whilst this raises questions concerning the ‘social epidemic’ we hear about in the media it also raises questions about how researchers, policy makers and practitioners can collaborate to develop initiatives that support this 10% of people who are chronically lonely.

We’d love to hear from you if you find this of interest and would like to explore possible collaborations.