I’ve just been to another conference on ageing run by a University and once again there was the weakness of lack of involvement of older people in the research. As a result many of the projects did not have valid outcomes as the samples were too small as older people presumably could see their limitations and dropped out of them.

Most of the people involved in the research projects were women. Apparently they have never thought through a parallel situation in which research into women’s issues was being done completely by men with female involvement only as research samples. The women would realise the futility of the exercise and drop out, as the older people did in the research presented at the conference.

The projects were all financed by a charitable institution and were worth millions of dollars. How much more wisely this money would have been spent if older people had access to it, recognising the research required and using University researchers as advisors! I suspect that we would then get valid results. Not only that but we older people are aware of the issues which need investigating. It is no use pointing out that there is a perceived problem with an ageing population if we are not asked what the problems are.

It was interesting that the presenter of the only valid, and successful, piece of research said that they had involved all stakeholders in the project. He listed these in a very matter-of-fact way and included older people as though this was the obvious thing to do and that the research required it, which of course it did. Those listening, including those whose research was less successful, didn’t seem to be aware of the difference.

I couldn’t help feeling that when it was first recognised that more people were living longer and that this would present a different kind of society, there was little competition for research in Universities on the subject and hence those who entered the field weren’t our top scholars. High quality researchers couldn’t see the value in this field and didn’t enter it so the standard has not been high, with a few exceptions over the years.

It is a depressing situation as we will continue to hear about the ‘problems’ of an ageing population with no hope of quality research into the subject. We older people will continue to be ‘blamed’ for living longer and hence causing the problem. Those who presented their research at the conference will one day themselves be elderly and will probably be frustrated by being regarded as a problem, particularly a financial drain on resources. What a different world it would be if society could look on us older people, not as a problem, but as an asset. We would all live in a much better and richer, in all its meanings, society.