Remembering My Hat

22nd June 2016

Learning Design categories – a list of ideas

This is one of my posts that will probably make no sense at all to people beyond the OU, so apologies if that is you. But for those who are at the OU, and especially those who are academics involved in the production of our materials…


(cc) Rain Rabbit


I run a group within the HSC department on production for academics new(ish) to the OU. We were talking recently about working with the Learning Design categories, and decided it would be useful to try to generate a list between us of different ways in which you could design activities of each type. This isn’t exhaustive, nor definitive, and we make no promises that these are always good suggestions – some of them would have to be done very carefully to to get over the bar of ‘but why on earth would students actually bother to do this?’. But we hope it’s useful to other people scratching their heads to think of non-assimilative activities (although we did include those too).


  • Readings – academic and more everyday kinds of texts
  • Audio
  • Video
  • Poetry
  • Maps and infographics based on maps
  • Images and artwork
  • Newspaper headlines
  • Personal stories
  • Case studies
  • Diagrams, inforgrahpics and graphs


  • Filling in a grid (gives more structure than free text ‘take notes’)
  • Numerical calculations
  • Make a powerpoint or other presentation
  • Do an elevator pitch
  • Draw a spider diagram or concept map
  • Write a briefing for a named audience
  • Write a tweet or headline
  • Write a blog entry
  • List of key points
  • Use the existing sticky notes tool on the VLE
  • Diagram which you can write on or manipulate or put sticky notes on
  • Make some notes (boring!)
  • Precis activities (e.g. rewrite in your own words, not more than 200 words)
  • Take a photo
  • Caption competition or cartoon bubble filling
  • Curating a collection of images or something else
  • Highlighting parts of text (highlighter tool in Word or offline versions)

Finding and Handling information

  • USE THE LIBRARY’S EXISTING TUTORIALS ON Digital Information Literacy
  • Access databases and other data sources and then extract some information
  • Finding a journal article or book from a catalogue
  • Doing a citation search
  • Following up a reference of your choice from a set reading
  • Generate your own data (avoid anything that’s close to interviewing people because of research ethics!)
  • Finding and evaluating infographics
  • Working with graphs and other pictorial data



  • THIS ONE IS HARD TO DO and we were least happy about the definition of this one
  • Reflective activities
  • Trying out a productive output on someone you know and getting feedback on it.
  • Trying an activity on yourself e.g. relaxation techniques, you could even include a pre and post test.


  • Drag and drop where it bounces back if incorrect
  • Quizzes with feedback on incorrect answers
  • Choose between two positions on a complex (often ethical) issue, feedback says ‘that’s valid, but have you also thought about …’ and then summarises the arguments for the opposite position.
  • Games and simulations (very time consuming to develop though)


What have we missed? Please do suggest more. And of course let us know if you think we’ve got anything completely wrong.


10th June 2015

Queer Kinship Conference: Notes part 4

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 17:48
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I’ve only liveblogged one session today, due to a combination of technical issues and being tired. Click backwards from this one on the blog to find the earlier ones. As always, this is my version, not necessarily what the speakers intended.

Parallel Session 10: Practices of trans-parenting

Sally Hines, Leeds

Pregnant pauses: Trans* blokes, bodies and babies OR Pregnant men: An international exploration of trans male practices of reproduction

Early thinking, not yet funded. First title is what she’s interested in, second is one she thinks is more likely to get funded.

Wants to look at post-transition transmen’s experiences of pregnancy in order to look at what male pregnancy tells us about gender in society.

Pregnant men in scifi (Marge Piercy etc.). Donna Harraway imagined reproduction untied from feminity. And reproduction has been a key theme in feminism – as major cause of women’s disadvantage (Woman’s Room). Desire for men to experience disadvantages of pregnancy and reproduction. Also feminist desires for gender-neutral parenting. Pipefish and seahorses do it.

Proposing: mixed qual methods, interdisc, internat, experiences, health needs and citizenship claims of transmen re pregnancy.

Growth in phenomenon e.g. 50 transmen in Australia gave birth in 2nd half of 2015. Support and help groups in UK around these issues.

Subject of fear and fascination – an interesting binary. Potentially fetishized. Citizenship and recognition not well though through in policy and law. Few differences across Europe, unlike same-sex marriage.

Media furore around Thomas Beatty (?sp) 2010ish – claimed to be first pregnant man, although wasn’t actually (Pat Califa’s husband). Diverse responses although little celebration.

Non-academic phrased research questions:

  • What’s is like to be a guy and be pregnant
  • Who’s got access? What sort of families are being reproduced?
  • Does gender-recognition legislation help?
  • Is reproductive technology playing a major role, or are people doing it for themselves?

Documentary auto-ethnographic film will be part of the outputs. Reps from trans health groups costed into bid as project consultants.


Rachel Epstein, LGBTQ Parenting network, Sherbourne Health Centre, Toronto

Space invaders: Queer and trans bodies in fertility clinics

Run courses for queer people planning parenthood. Heard lots of stories about fertility clinics, did funding bid ‘Creating our families’. Qual 44 ints with 66 LGBTQ ppl across Ontario. Produced a guidebook for LGBTQ people, a tips sheet for clinics, fact sheet for trans people, theatre pieces for clinics, turned into a video (will soon be avail freely online – look at their website) + academic outputs.

Fertility industry – hugely gendered, raced, classed. How does queer fit into these spaces?

Drew a lot on Charis Thompson’s 2005 ethnography of fertility clinics, mainly het people.

Newness of technologies get normalised, become less scary by linking them back to conventional gender roles and family relationships. Heterosexual matrix (Butler) really gets naturalised. Sex = PIV heterosexual sex, desire for children is natural etc.

Gender labour – repairing of damaged gender identities. Men congratulated on how many sperm they produce, applauded on returning from the donation room! Body parts are separated from social identities.

So when queer and trans people enter this space, they may be unintelligible. Bodies don’t line up with norms. E.g. described 2 lesbians, one transwoman, as ‘het couple with male factor infertility’. ‘Good girl’ when ovulates, sperm called ‘the boys’. Advised to go home and have sex. Because transwoman can produce sperm, she is seen as a man. Cisfemale partner also found the kinds of femininity they expected her to perform difficult – would have preferred just to be treated as a uterus-on-legs, not to be constantly incited to perform femininity in traditional ways [also an issue for heterosexual people in fertility clinics].

Yuval Topper-Erez, Hoshen – LGBT education Centre

Transgender pregnancy and queer parenting from the personal perspective

Born to orthodox Jewish family. FTM, started testosterone age 20, told that after a year would never be able to get pregnant, but felt if he didn’t take T, he wouldn’t survive anyway. He and male partner thought they might adopt, but not possible as gay couple in Israel. Felt surrogacy wasn’t ethical for them since he had a uterus. Now have a 3 yr old and a 1 yr old.

Stopped testosterone, got pregnant. Outed in media – sure hospital leaked it, so decided he had to become a media figure – gained rights to edit and veto. Wanted to give birth at home in order to avoid media attention but medical complication meant couldn’t – not a good experience at all.

Took 18 months to register them both as parents – only way to do it was to register him as female again, register as mother, then change his gender back to male.

Second child state refused to register at all, so no access to health care until 3 months old. Same solution to ‘problem’ of his gender – Guinness Book of Records for most registered sex changes!

Has lots of implication for how bring up children – lots of talk about gender in their household. Kids know that gender is a choice and that you shouldn’t ascribe. Also changed his gender practices – told son nail polish was for everyone, then felt hypocritical that never wore it himself. Started to do so sometimes (also makes his son very happy).


Q to Sally: Are you going to look at what are the narratives that transmen develop in order to navigate this difficult terrain? [Like narratives developed to get treatment at gender clinics]

A: A really good suggestion, thanks.

Q to Yuval: Say more about experiences – any difficulty or dysphoria from being pregnant?

A: Spoken to with female pronoun during labour (he didn’t notice!). Social worker came 12 hours after birth, asked lots of questions ‘now are you going to stay a woman’ ‘I’m a man now’ argument. Just have to agree to disagree. Didn’t feel there was anything feminine about being pregnant. Didn’t like being pregnant but it didn’t feel dysphoric. Since being pregnant it has changed his gender identity a bit because feels greater connection to the many women who have also given birth.

Q: Dominant cultural narrative that transpeople hate their original genitals and reproductive parts. I don’t see this in my work with trans youth. Do any of you?

A: It’s a narrative we had to tell to get treatment – a strategic rehearsed narrative. Maybe we are outgrowing the need for that story as trans gets more common.

28th January 2015

Older LGB&T people: Minding the Knowledge Gaps. Final conference.

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 15:53
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

My usual partial and erratic liveblog-ish notes from a seminar. Not a complete record of what’s going on – just the things that interest me [and my own responses in brackets].

Liz Barker: How far we’ve come: Older LGBT rights movement[s?]

Greengross & Greengross (1989)  ‘Living, Loving and Ageing’ called by Daily Mirror a ‘raunchy sex guide for older people’ [Fantastic! It’s just not! I’ve got half a paper written comparing LL&A with modern sex guides for older people. Maybe I should revisit that…] A really important start to awareness about older people’s sexuality in the UK [although academically the interest in older people and sexuality starts earlier with (I think) the Starr-Weiner report]

HIV&AIDS as a catalyst for work around OP’s sexual health, and older LGBT people [as so often – such a mixed blessing – raises awareness of the existence of a group, but in a context where it’s a problem. Like the history of public awareness of bisexuality]

Polari did first research  on LGBT older people (initially on housing options) [again, not sure this is true if you include academic research. When was ‘Gay and Grey’?]

Spark to (then) Age Concern Opening Doors programme was an older gay man who was a carer who was told council couldn’t help him with his partner because his set up wasn’t ‘normal’.

Opening Door report and first seminar in 2001 [I was there. It was great].

Opening Doors didn’t originally include T because they didn’t want to assume issues were the same and their sample was very small and opportunistic [no explanation given for why they didn’t include B. I’m pretty sure the first report was originally called ‘Working with older lesbians and gay men’ which does not include older bi people. I think it later got rebadged as ‘l, g and b’].

Round up of past seminars (various speakers)

1st seminar on bi ageing – made a nice change to be first seminar in a series, given usual erasure of bisexuality within LGBT acronym.

Being told you are too old to be bisexual – that you ought to have made up your mind by now

Intergenerational work with LGBT really adds to diversity and complexity of labels and experiences people have.

Being BME and LGBT can increase visiblity in unhelpful ways (with migration status sometimes as another intersection) – research on Irish Gay men working in England.

Venn diagram – three overlapping circles, older, LGBTQ and BME – that gives you overlaps of older and LGBTQ, LGBTQ and BME and older and BME, with the overlap in the middle of older, BME and LGBTQ. Middle group is relatively small and but can extrapolate from other overlaps (e.g research on LGBT and BME experiences or on older BME people’s experiences). Lack of visible older BME LGBT people is also a problem for younger people who need elders and role models. [Importance of being able to imagine your own ageing].

How and in what circumstances do older LGBT people wish to be visible to H&SC services? [Not always].

Need for staff to know about LGBT history, so they can understand possible fears and reticences.

Shd the focus be on specialist provision or enhancing pracice across the sector? [Both! But if I had to pick one, I think it would be the second]

24th April 2014

BSA 2014, Leeds (Part 4): Baby boomers + ‘quick and dirty’ research

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 19:34
Tags: , , ,

Jennie Bristow, Kent

The Baby Boomer generation and the problem of knowledge

How has the baby boomer generation come to be constructed as a social problem in Britain today?

3 books came out in 2010 doing this, most influential David Willets’ The Pinch’, right wing perspective. Francis Beccket ‘What did the babyboomers ever do for us. ‘Jilted Generation’

Babyboomers hed responsible for a wide range of social problems – economic crisis (demographic size + bad political decision = Tony Blair), housing shortage, pensions and healthcare, lifestyles, values and cultural change, and young people’s inablity to grow up (including because they can’t afford to buy houses).

Boomer-blaming transcends left-right divisions and also generational differences (baby boomers themselves and younger people [what about those older than the baby boomers?]

Did media analysis of 4 national newspapers in 6 date periods, mid 80s – present day, using term ‘baby’ and ‘boomer’. Analysed 200+ articles in depth.

Increased mention over time (also on Google Ngram)

Not always negative discussion – often quite positive, especially around time of election of Bill Clinton.

How boomers were defined varied depending on the problem that was being articulated. – one bulge or two. If talking about demographic problems, tend to define widely as born 1945-65. But if talking about cultural change, really mean people graduating from university in about 1969.

Used Qualitative Media Analysis – aiming to take acount of social contexts in which texts are created (e.g. election of Bill Clinton)

Mannheim 1922/28 on sociology of generations

Cultural problem – failure to preserve welfare state (left wing) or self-indulgent individualism like Tony Blair (right wing)

By 2006 beginning of hardening of narraive of baby boomers as a problem (n.b. before the financial crisis). Prompted by retirement of the first baby boomers. ‘Boomergeddon’. Demographic problems, but culturally morally loaded through talk of 60s barminess.

Can’t win – if look after your health, you’ll live longer, which makes you even more of a problem!

A new generationalism? Trying to create generationally based social divisions?

Historically, younger generations have criticised older generations for being set in their ways. But here we see baby boomers saying that they went too far, shouldn’t have changed things so much. [Very interesting!]

Idea of babyboomers originally came from US, which is why it doesn’t actually map very well on to UK demographics.

This is an elite idea that has become popular through the media, not a grassroots one. Thinks most people’s actual experience is not of intergenerational conflict but of mutual support with significant transfers of wealth down the generations.


Hannah Jones, Warwick

Urgent! Reflections on doing ‘quick-and-dirty’ research, and on sociology and social action.

Danger of it just being descriptive, but that’s also a danger with slow research. Difficulty of taking historical and wider perspective – only if you don’t already know the literature.

Back and Puwar (2012) A manifesto for live methods.

Can use quick sociological methods to have political effects – quick survey they did in response to ‘Go Home’ immigration vans. But harder to have sociological effects with quick research? She thinks not.

Amphibious sociology – Lury 2013




BSA 2014, Leeds (Part 3): Sexuality

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 19:29
Tags: , ,

You know the form


Katy Pilcher, Aston

Subverting heteronormativity in a lesbian erotic dance venue?

Erotic dance is v contested area in feminist debate – classic sex positive v. sex negative case. But this binary is itself problematic

Can the heteronormative gaze be subverted?

Power is always still operating

Using Jackson and Scott’s defn that ‘what makes an act, a desire or a relationship sexual is a matter of social definition: the meanings invested in it’ (2010:84) so erotic dance is not inherently erotic, it’s the meanings people ascribe to it that make it so.

Club she studied (‘Lippy’) was a product of 1980s lesbian sex wars – predecesor version ‘The Cage’ was SM and seen by some participants as more radical and more queer than Lippy.

Founder of Lippy felt that The Cage had paved the way for the more moderate Lippy [classic discursive relationship between the more extreme and the more moderate]

Dancers dressed in quite traditional normative gendered ways, including one as 1950s housewife – the archetpe of trad gender!

But could say that they are displaying the performativity of gender (vide Butler) and making femme queer identities visible independently, not just when in contrast with a butch partner.

In one act, one dancer dresses as a man but with trad female lingerie underneath – not a drag king, something more complex than that.

Valued as a women’s space. But this is policed – fat and hairy/trans women not acceptable to all.

Massey – spaces as made and remade – so not inherently inclusive space because women-only, made so (or not).

One dancer couldn’t get work in straight clubs because too heavily tatood – suggests Lippy was a queerer space, because was acceptable here.

But women punters not taken seriously as customers by club employees, seen as sexually fairly passive and less sexual than men.

Dancers go up to punters and touch them, unlike in male strip clubs. Hugging – quite a reciprocal gesture.

Some evidence of punters taking up more hegemonic masculine subject-positions, like approaching dancers outside the club and asking for a kiss.


Stevi Jackson, York (and Sue Scott)

Towards a practice theoretic approach to sexuality

They have previously used sexual scripts theory. Gagnon and Simon’s levels of scripting – cultural scenarios (like discourses), interpersonal scripting (through interactions with others, sexual partners and also other) and intrapsychic scripting (reflexive stuff, conversations with yourself). All three inter-relate. Not deterministic. You improvise around the scripts.

But this can be seen as too cognitive. Based on active meaning making and reflexive practice. Jackson and Scott 2007 and 2010 trying to move beyond this by looking at embodied sexual conduct e.g. orgasm  – not just a physiological process but a social one

Drawing on Becker 1963 on learning to feel appropriately (becoming a marijuana user). Useful to think about in relation to sex – becoming a competent sexual actor. But doesn’t explain variety and complexity of sexual practices well [why not?]. Scripting solves this in part, because of way it look at agentic individuals, interactional situation and surrounding socioculral context. But not well theorised how this turns in to practices.

Turn to practice in Sociology since about 2000. Especially strong in sociology of consumption, building on Bordieu. Not much theorisation of practice in sexuality. Idea is used in sociology of families (Morgan, Finch, Jamieson) i.e. displaying family through practices.

Is sex a practice? It has defining features, although historically and culturally variable and although could be more than currently is. It is generally recognizable as an event – period of activity, involving sexual arousal [does this apply to all BDSM activities? I’m not sure it does. Although it could get quite circular about what you define as sexual arousal]. There are shared understandings, standards, advice on how to do it better.

Danger of defining sex as a practice could be that it seems to move away from the sociological, to focusing more on habits and routines. But these are rooted in biography and social context, so this isn’t really a problem.


BSA 2014, Leeds (Part 2): Veganism + teaching LGBT+ in HSC

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 19:26
Tags: , , , , ,

More erratic and partial notes from a conference. Part 1 here. My own thoughts in square brackets. No pretty pictures, I’m afraid, due to aforementioned technical problems.


Symposium on Veganism

Kate Stewart, Nottingham

Health benefits of eating more fruit and veg seem clear. 5-a-day and so on campaigns (now 8-a-day)

But doesn’t necessarily follow that vegans are healthier. Study of German vegans showed participants ate equivalent of 18 a day! And better health.

Analysis of four prominent health-advice websites (NHS choices, Change for Life etc.) and what they said about veganism.

Focus on health risks of plant-based diets. Don’t report benefits. Focus on adding fruit and veg to existing diet, not radically changing diet or basing dishes on vegetables.

Plant-based diets are constructed as marginal in advice literature


Richard Twine, IoE

Negotating relationships in transition to veganism

Practice Theory [looks v interesting] about not overstating the rational and intentional, looking at what people do and ways to change what people do.

Changes through recrafting practicing, substituting practices

[A really interesting paper – too tired at this stage to make proper notes except to remind myself to follow this one up]


All the presenters in this symposium had lots of experiences of very hostile responses to doing research on veganism – accusations of being partial, unobjective, unbalanced, including difficulty getting through ethics committees on these grounds [I never get any trouble with  this in relation to doing research on LGBT issues, including LGBT ageing. Is this because these days it’s perfectly respectable to research LGBT stuff, but that’s not (yet?) the case for veganism? It would be really interesting to do a sort of historical analysis of what ethics cttees reject (although they haven’t existed for that long). What is seen as risky / problematic / dangerous research  over time]


Zowie Davy, Lincoln

Freire’s pedagogy – 2 way, problem-focused, master / slave relationships (pedagogue /student). Need to co-create knowledge.

‘Limit situations’

Looking at teaching of LGBTQI issues to medial, health and social care students  in 5 universities in one are of UK

When there is teaching on LGBTQI issues, it’s not integrated into general topics, but ‘special topics’.

[I want to think about this properly in relation to K118, where we have got some bits of teaching on LGBT issues, I’m very pleased to say]



22nd October 2013

(a)Dressing the Ageing Demographic seminar: Part 1

Last Friday I went to a seminar at the Royal College of Art about clothes and growing older. It was fantastic. Really stimulating and interesting, and even more fun that usual in the coffee breaks noticing what everyone was wearing! I met up with some people I already knew and am always glad to see and also got to know some new ones, including the journalist who writes the Guardian’s Invisible Woman blog about clothing, body image and getting older. I also admired a very beautiful and stylish older women and said to someone else that I aspired to look like her in 40 years time. Then I discovered she was, in fact, a model (and still working as such, I think) and decided that was probably an unrealistic hope.

What follows is my usual idiosyncratic and incomplete notes from the day, with my own additional thoughts in square brackets.

(cc) Brian J Matis

Julia Twigg

Fashion and Age: Dres, the Body and Later Life

There’s a persistent normative age ordering of clothes, especially for women. Largely expressed negatively – what is not suitable for someone as they grow older

–        More covered up, higher necks, longer skirts, looser cut

–        Darker, duller colours

–        Sober self-effacing, avoiding claims to sexual attention

Can see this in those Scandinavian life stage pictures, as well as nowadays.

But these cultural factors are also in interplay with changes in the body

SizeUK did a literal ‘shape of the nation’ survey. New shape much more realistic for older women. Used by some retailers.

JT drawing on Barnard on ways gender and class are seen as natural but actually ideological, to theorise dress as also ideological.

There’s a dominant cultural narrative that this age ordering is gone or is going or has lessened. ‘60 is the new 40’. In academia sometimes called the reconstitution of ageing thesis. Older people argued to now be nearer the mainstream than they used to be. New pattern of the life course – extended mid-life up to 4th Age. More undifferentiated middle years.

Showed that Posy Simmons cartoon of ‘A lifetime of babywear: The Seven Ages of Man’ – wearing teeshirt and shorts at all life stages.

Making the point that men’s clothes don’t change across the lifecourse. But you can also see in the cartoon the way that clothes are tweaked by clothes designers to make the same garment age-appropriate – elasticated waists at youngest and oldest ages, not in mid-life

So does age ordering still operate?

Women in JT’s study were aware of age ordering and largely obeyed it – stressed need for caution, avoiding exposing body, over young or girly styles, frilly clothes, anything eye-catching.

‘The wardrobe moment’ when women feel they can no longer wear a particular thing [I had one of those when I was coming up to 40. Not so much since but that could be because I’ve adapted my wardrobe in accordance with age orderings?]

Sense of exile from cultural practices of feminity, or feminity itself

But also evidence of change. Felt wore very different clothes from their mothers. Keen to avoid drab, chintz and crimplene especially!

Clothing retailers also believe things have changed. Asda – 30 yrs ago people would switch to ‘classic’ clothing at a life point, no more. Older women now wear brighter, fresher colours. Ranges for older women marked by use of strong clear colours. E.g. celebs like Mary Berry

Larger retail context to this – arrival of cheap Fast Fashion – late 20th and 21st C. True democratisation of fashion – greater than 19th C or mid 20th C one, arguably. People shop more often – over 75s now shop for clothes as often as teens and twenties in e. 1960s. Clothes are cheaper, still remain accessible if on lowish income in later life.

‘Moving Younger’. Clothes as aspirational – dream of idealised self, younger, thinner, richer, smarter. Consumption of clothes allows this. So retailers persistently portray their clothes as aimed at a younger market than they know their customers actually are.

Style diffusion. Youth has replaced class as the engine for style diffusion. No longer introduced by elites and then abandoned by them as taken up by lower classes. Not so much that older people are dressing younger, but that styles are diffusing older – centre of fashionability is youth, edges is older.

Age norms and age ordering still exist. Continue to encode ageist meanings

But also clear evidence for change – norms are shifting. Fashion industry is playing a part in this shift.


These covered up styles for older women is because of stigmatisation and fear of older bodies

Rise of ‘shapewear’ – new forms of corsetry. Can now get it extending to arms!

JT: one respondent felt could do longer wear girly styles she liked, but always wore coloured, girly underwear as form of secret resistance.

1st October 2013

International Day of Older Persons: Why I am hesitant about simply ‘celebrating’ the day

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 11:47
Tags: , , , , ,

Since 1990, the UN has designated 1st October each year as the International Day of Older Persons. Over on Twitter, @LGBTageing asked some of us what we were doing to celebrate the day. This is my somewhat hedged and cautious reply – sorry!

(cc) kslavin

Of course there’s lots of good things about later life and growing older, and it’s really important to resist the common discourses of old age as decline and despair. Celebrating ageing and older people is one way of doing that and it’s an important project that I’m really pleased organisations and individuals are taking on. But I find myself a bit hesitant at writing something simply ‘celebratory’ about older people.

Some of my discomfort about ‘celebrating’ older persons is because I am not yet myself generally categorised as an ‘older person’. Of course, the beauty of the term ‘older person’ is that is is inherently relative – I am older than I was, older than a teenager, older than some of my colleagues – so in that sense everyone is an older person. But the term usually gets used in the UK to refer to people in their 60s, 70s or older. In some contexts, including in the study of non-heterosexual ageing, ‘older’ often includes people in their 50s, but I’m not quite there yet either. Because I’m not yet in that chronological age bracket, for all I recognise the social constructedness of those age categories, it feels to me as if ‘older people’ is other than me. And since I do not feel like an ‘older person’ myself yet, it feels potentially a bit patronising and otherising to ‘celebrate’ older people as a group.

Older people are hugely diverse and people’s experiences of ageing and later life vary enormously. They are far too diverse to be simply ‘celebrated’. The phenomenon of ageing also seems to me to be to be far too complex to be simply a matter of celebration. Ageing is just a thing, it’s neither bad nor good. Of course we’re not starting on a level playing field – ageing is hugely stigmatised and demonised. Therefore I do in practice spend quite a lot of my time talking up the positives of ageing and later life, in an attempt to redress the balance. But, being a contrary sort of person, I find the invitation to celebrate makes me want to note some of the reasons it’s more complex than that.

As so often when I’m thinking about age, I discover that my colleague and former PhD supervisor, Bill Bytheway, has got there before me. What follows are some extracts from the last page of his 1995 book ‘Ageism’ [1]. He is talking about whether the best way to refute ageism is to be positive about later life. He cites the experiences so many of us have had when we say we work with older people: acquaintances say ‘that must be depressing!’ and the temptation is to reply:

Most elderly people are really nice, absolutely fascinating once you get to know them … The things they say! … Working with them is really interesting … Some of them are real characters!

Instead, Bytheway suggests we should reply:

The people I work with are pretty ordinary. They have lived long lives and survived many experiences. I like working with them because there are things I can do to make life more satisfactory for them. They tell me what they think and I listen to them and sometimes argue. You can learn a lot from ordinary people. I enjoy the work; it’s worth doing.

Bytheway, B. (1995) Ageism Open University Press, Buckingham and Philadelphia.

13th September 2013

BSG 2013, Oxford, Part 3

Partial and particularly incomplete notes from a conference. Part one here and part two here

Symposium: Using the Arts to humanise healthcare education about people with dementia

Sherry Dupuis, University of Waterloo, Canada

The pedagogical possibilities of research-based drama in dementia care

Project came out of desire to resist dominant popular discourses of dementia ‘shell of himself’ ‘burden of care’ ‘long goodbye’ ‘36 hour day’ ‘loss of self’ as well as bio-medical versions.

Looking at effects on audience members  – how images and actions changed for families and workers of PWD over a one year period, after seeing film called ‘I’m still here’ – research based drama – script much from transcripts of interviews, result of collaborations with PWD, workers, actors and playwrite.

(cc) Nico Macdonald

Pre and immediately post-performance focus groups (n=106 people)

Interviews 6 weeks and 12 months after viewing (no.s reduced at each stage as you’d expect to 83 at end)

Participants had vivid memories at 6 weeks – feelings of compassion and better understanding of PWD’s perspective. Talked about scenes flickering into their brains months later. Expanded perspective, deepened understanding

Some people felt they are unchanged because already knew this – affirmed their existing awareness. But often in the interview they then went on to talk about ways they had changed [this is surely about face and presenting yourself as a competent member to start with – dynamics of interview].

Some evidence of changed behaviours as a result – family members joking more, recognising humour in situations + focusing more on person, not trying to get other jobs done at the same time. Care workers talked about checking for UTIs more, having a better admission form, running support groups for families.

Cathartic experience for some family members, transformative healing process, emotional release.

DVD and teaching-learning tool available from

New study will do observational work in care homes about whether it actually changes care worker’s practices. There is some evidence of practical changes already e.g. policy changes, support group set up etc.

Dialogue with others after the performance was really important for deepening learning.


Ruth Bartlett, Univ of Southampton

Agnes & Nancy – a short film about two women with dementia

A documentary film she commissioned. Comes out of her ESRC First Grants study of PWD who are activists and campaigners for dementia (like Terry Pratchett but he didn’t take part!) – ‘No Limits: reimagining life with dementia’. 16 people took part, 11 men, 5 women.

Agnes and Nancy are real people, real names – offered pseudonym but all but 2 didn’t want that – being named and known is part of their activism. Film is available on vimeo or email Ruth and she can also send teaching resources / resource pack for facilitators to use.

Documentary film definition: about real life, but not itself real life. Term first used in 1926.

Health Equity Institute in San Francisco is leader in the field, have 35 documentary films ‘For Health and Social Justice’ made by and for students, incl ‘Old Age is not for Cissies’ about LGBT ageing.

Paper by Aagje Swinnen in The Gerontologist (2013) on dementia in documentary films – way it is always a representation of reality, not always helpful.

Common responses to film:

  • lovely film.
  • But also lots of challenges ‘do they really have dementia?’ – still living quite independently, travelling and so on.
  • It’s about friendship, not demetia
  • ‘She shdnt be allowed to chop wood (one memorable scene)
  • The PWD I support aren’t like Agnes and Nancy

Raises interesting questions about perceived authenticity – if someone doesn’t seem to be behaving like PWD, their illness identity gets challenged.

Bartlett, R (2012) ‘The emergent modes of dementia activism’ Ageing & Society

Interesting discussion among audience about both the importance of positive role models but also the pressure they create for other people who can’t be like that because of physical health, cognitive issues, social class, race etc. Ruth: someone with dementia saying ‘I thought I was doing well’ until they saw the Agnes and Nancy film [gulp!]

Ransackers Association – group for PWD – audience member.


Hannah Zeilig, UEA

Descartes: Using the arts to educate the dementia care workforce.

Still no clear regulatory framework for the dementia care workforce.

Staff in care home they worked in initially hostile to word ‘Arts’ and also to researchers, seeing them as ‘experts’ coming in to tell them how to do a job they’d been doing for 20 years.

People usually think of Arts hierarchically: Opera, poetry, classical music, sculpture at top. Pop music, tv, comics, cartoons, as lower, not really Arts even.

Tried to get staff to talk about their feelings about their work (in focus groups). 4 themes emerged:

  • Identity of staff as well as PWD
  • Awareness – how to behave sensitively, how to understand the condition
  • Language and communication. Care home staff refered to themselves as ‘bum-wipers’ and PWD as ‘nutters’ or ‘fruitcakes’. Powerful derogatory language. Invented game ‘word salad’ – magnetic words. As way of conveying that we all struggle with language sometimes
  • Practice of caring – lifting, toileting, moving, feeding.

So then researchers went away to find Arts resources addressing these themes. Everybody on staff wanted music.

[Frustratingly, at this point I had to leave, so I don’t know what happened next! I’m planning to contact the authors to find out though and I’m sure they’d welcome enquiries from anyone else who is interested]

BSG 2013, Oxford, Part 2

Partial and personal notes from some parts of this conference. Part one here

Plenary: John Beard, World Health Organisation

Global ageing and health: From talk to action

(cc) US Mission Geneva

Pace of ageing of population much quicker in e.g. Brazil, Thailand than West, so no time to get infrastructure in place.

Pop ageing was initially about more and more people surviving childhood and women childbirth. That ?led to reducing birth rate (+avail of contraception)

Dependency ratios are pretty valid in relation to proportion of children in pop (kids do need lots more care than contribute), but not so much for OP because OP aren’t necessarily, or simplistically, dependent. Changes in behaviour, attitude and policy can reduce dependency effect of ageing pops.

Fab graphs from Mathers et al 2013 on female deaths across the life course – low income countries v. middle v high income. Really clear and interesting graphics [use for K118?]

What is WHO doing about pop ageing? Now a formal priority at WHO, via:

  • Partnerships and political commitment
  • Build evidence base
  • Knowledge translation (evidence into policy and practice)
  1. Health promotion across life course – OP are not too old to change diet, behaviour etc.
  2. Early detection and screening, primary health care and long term care. EoL care.
  3. Age-friendly environments
  4. Rethinking ageing – toss out the stereotypes

Showed a video WHO produced for World Health Day 2012 about challenging stereotypes.  [Nice pictures. Might be a good resource for K118 LG13]

People get more diverse as they grow older, especially in terms of physical function (graphs to show across lifecourse. Physical function falls off with age, but range within age cohorts is much bigger). So generalising about later life even more unhelpful.

[Cd do one of those ‘see what the other students thought’ polls on ‘how old is an old person’ or similar, then follow on activity problematizing. Or one of these for awareness of own ageing (similar to K319 but not too similar?)]

Importance of getting beyond demography. Just because societies have pop ageing doesn’t tell us anything. Most healthcare costs are in the last 18 months of life, at whatever age those 18 months occur.

Need to move beyond gerontology and geriatrics as only disciplines that think about later life to include urban planners, architects, designers, technologists, people who make stuff.

Demographer in audience: working now on new ways of doing demography that are less ageist! Better measures.

[I am amused that this kind of thing always happens at academic conferences: speaker somewhat caricatures and demonises some group (in this instance Demographers) and in the questions slot, a member of the group resists and problematises this characterisation. I love academia!]

Next Page »

Create a free website or blog at