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In July 2009 I will be travelling to Paris for the 19th IAGG congress. It should be valuable because it is one of the few conferences on

ageing which unites both gerontology and geriatrics, thus combining both the physically healthy and unhealthy aspects of ageing. The two conditions often/usually interact with each other.

My concern is that once again participants will have to listen to papers given by youngsters whose only knowledge of ageing is from

reading textbooks usually written by other younger people. Their research often contains huge holes and either misinforms or isn’t worth listening to. The holes or misinformation are often not recognised because most of the audience themselves are younger people.

The situation always reminds me that 100 years ago, conferences on women’s issues were run by men, with only a few token women in

the audience. The excuse given was that women were too stupid to be involved! I wonder what the excuse is today for parallel circumstances in

conferences on ageing. I don’t recall any of the research from the ‘men’s conferences’ lasting. It wasn’t until women started to run their own conferences that real progress towards equality was made. Similarly I don’t think older people will achieve equality until we get our act together and run conferences on ageing ourselves. I hope we would never go to similar extremes to those used by the men, and ban younger people, except for a few token ones in the audience!

A couple of my younger friends have been invited to make presentations whilst I seem to be among the elite (from the names of others who

have been rejected) relegated to doing a poster. I refused at first as oral presentations and posters are entirely different media, arguing that had I wanted to do a poster I would have applied in that category. The organisers wouldn’t accept my refusal (probably unheard of!). The third time I was reminded that I had been honoured to be allowed to do a poster it occurred to me that it would be a good opportunity to do a ‘dissenting’ poster along the lines above, together with a copy of the ‘rejected’ oral presentation abstract!

It will be interesting to see the reaction of the audience, and the organisers, and the presentation selectors. It has made me realise how vitally important this latter role is. Having quality researchers sitting in the audience while second rate people present (in this case younger people), are not the hallmarks of a good conference. I hope I am misjudging the quality of the 19th IAAG conference. I’ll report back!

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