Wednesday, 13 January 2010

The Centre for Ageing and Biographical Studies at The Open University and the Centre for Policy on Ageing invite you to the 13th seminar in the Representation of Older People in Ageing Research series

on Thursday, 11 February 2010


At the Centre for Policy on Ageing, 19-23 Ironmonger Row, London EC1V 3QP, from 10.30 to 4.30

Fee of £30 (£25 for registered students) payable to Centre for Policy on Ageing, refreshments and sandwich lunch included.

Email Angela Clark to reserve a place and request a booking form or access programme/form at

‘Imagining Futures’ will look at methodological issues in asking people to imagine the future and their own ageing. Speakers will address issues such as:

· What research methods can be used to help people think about the future?

· How has the future been conceptualised and articulated in research targeted at older people?

· Is it possible to move people beyond stereotyped and negative expectations of their own ageing and of later life?

· Do particular types of research methods affect how people tend to envisage the future and their own older age?

· What are the ethical issues in asking people to think about their own ageing?

The aim of the day is to explore both practical and theoretical issues in asking people to think about their own ageing, in order to improve practice in both research and practice/policy contexts. Seminar participants will be invited to share their views and experiences throughout the day. The seminar will be of relevance to practitioners, policy makers, academics and students.

10.30 Registration and Coffee


Morning Chair, Dr Rebecca Jones, CABS, The Open University



Professor Joanna Bornat and Dr Bill Bytheway, The Open University


Professor Barbara Adam, Cardiff University

1.05 lunch

Afternoon Chair, Professor Joanna Bornat

2.00 ‘Erm, I don't know... It's not something that I really think about’: Facing the Fear in research on ageing

Dr Cassandra Phoenix, Exeter University


Seminar participants are invited to bring along examples of their own or other people's research where the future has been a focus. We will use these examples, in combination with the day's papers, to further examine the seminar themes.



Researching the future with older people: experiences with ‘The Oldest Generation’

Professor Joanna Bornat and Dr Bill Bytheway

'The Oldest Generation', one of seven projects in the Timescapes programme, has been researching the everyday lives of 12 people over the age of 75. Our methods are qualitative and longitudinal. We have used life history interviews, followed by a second interview eighteen months later, and diaries covering the intervening period. While time past and time being experienced was built into data collection we realised that the future was a missing feature. In this paper we reflect on some of the reasons why the future was not included in our research design and then go on to discuss how we re-focused our attention, by direct and indirect means. In so doing we came to recognise the extent to which future time is immanent in talk and how in research with older people, the social meanings of time have a complexity which challenges assumptions of finitude.

Future matters for ageing research

Professor Barbara Adam

The futurity of action is a challenging domain for social inquiry; it necessitates an openness to rethink the subject matter of sociology, its epistemology and its methodology. For ageing research the difficulty is intensified. To gain some anchorage points for study, the paper outlines past and present approaches to the future, maps the complexities involved, identifies some of the sensitive issues associated with studying approaches to the future in older people, and seeks to identify some openings for investigation.

‘Erm, I don't know... It's not something that I really think about’: facing the fear in research on ageing

Dr Cassandra Phoenix

Over the last decade I have been inviting people to tell me stories about their perceptions and experiences of ageing. This has involved speaking with the young, and old, about their past, present and anticipated future body-selves. My ‘qualitative tool kit’ has included life history interviews, longitudinal interviews, the use of biographical objects, ethnography, focus groups and more recently, visual methods. With a particular interest in narrative research, I have interpreted these stories using multiple forms of analyses to explore the ‘hows’, and ‘whats’ of storytelling, identity construction through the use of big and small stories, and the ways in which such ageing identities are contextually situated through examining ‘where’, ‘when’, and by ‘who’ cultural context is produced. Central to all of this has been the notion of ‘facing a fear’ – for the participants, and indeed myself as a researcher.

I use this presentation as a welcomed opportunity to reflect upon, and share with the audience what has worked well… what less so… and how I have attempted to negotiate some of the issues that have arisen throughout this journey.