Doctoral students’ breakfast

At breakfast on Tuesday 21 June, join us to meet colleagues from different countries and some world leaders in gerontology to share experiences and ideas on ageing research.

I joined the discussion at the table with professor O’Neill and three doctoral students. We covered a broad variety of topics concerning gerontology and geriatrics, interdisciplinarity, reflexivity of aging and the embeddedness of aging studies.

Here are the take-away messages that I want to come back on to elaborate when I have more time (I am scribbling it down during Luigi Ferruci’s connecting the biology of aging and the aging phenotype):

  • Be aware that gerontology is vague and an increasingly blurring concept. In principle, gerontology refers to the scientific study of old age and of the process of becoming old, whereas geriatrics is a subfield of biological/health gerontology that refers to a branch of medicine that deals with the problems and diseases of old age and aging people. More and more disciplines are joining and redefining it.
  • “Wittgenstein’s ladder” : we all start from one discipline with particular ways of making sense of the world. Embrace it and be flexible to bend a bit when doing multidiscipline work.
  • Although we usually start talking about aging with a particular problem in mind (dementia, pension bomb, etc), we should be extremely careful not to treat aging as a problem per se. Problems are constructed and we need to be very careful with it.
  • One should read as much as possible, especially outside one’s area. Learn about theories of aging and at the same time be extremely careful what kind of aging problem it has constructed, and whether it makes sense.
  • Geriatricians definitely see a lot of old people on a daily basis, but they mostly see people with disease and sickness. That shapes the way how they theorize and see the world of aging.
  • Make aging interesting. For example, ‘We are born as copies but die as originals”. The issue of aging is not outside of us, it is not a problem. Aging is highly embedded in our lives, it is part of our fabric. When the cardiologist closes his/her door, there is no problem of cardiology. However when we close the door, aging is living within us.
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