Jim Edwardson

j.a.edwardson@ncl.ac.uk | Emeritus Professor

Jim Edwardson

How can we harness the mental capital and experience of older people for the common good, and how can digital technologies help us in this? How can we use such technologies to improve the health and wellbeing of older people and delay frailty? Older people vote more often in local and general elections than other groups but how can we best involve them with emerging platforms for participative democracy? After a fifty-year career in biomedical research, these key questions have brought me to Open Lab.

I came back to Tyneside in 1979 as Director of the Medical Research Council Unit at Newcastle General Hospital and was made honorary Professor of Neuroendocrinology by the University in 1982. The MRC Neurochemical Pathology Unit made international contributions to our understanding of the clinical and pathological substrates of dementia. In 1994 I became the founding Director of the Institute for the Health of the Elderly – the University’s first research institute, which later became the Institute for Ageing and Health (IAH). I held this post until my retirement from full time work in 2006 and became Emeritus Professor in 2013. Together with Professor Tom Kirkwood I shared a leadership role in the development of the Campus for Ageing and Vitality on the former Newcastle General Hospital site – recognised in the naming of the new ‘Edwardson Building’ there in 2008.

This research career brought me into extensive engagement with older people. I am an elected Vice President of the national Alzheimer’s Society, a Vice President of Age UK Newcastle, and on the Committee of Northumbria Region U3A – University of the Third Age – where I have responsibility for developing a research culture in some 50 U3As across the region. I was the founding chairman (2005-09) of Years Ahead, the North East Regional Forum for Older people which addresses the challenge of how we can be a flourishing, sustainable region with a population age-structure much older than that experienced by previous generations. I currently chair the Steering Group for VOICE North – a large panel of retired people who engage with researchers on ageing in all three Faculties at Newcastle University and at all levels. These links played a significant role in the successful bid to RCUK for the Social Inclusion in the Digital Economy (SiDE) Research Hub in 2009.

I am currently working with Patrick Olivier, Rob Comber, Clara Crivallero, John Vines and Vasileios Vlachokyriakos on co-development with U3A members of an online platform to design and deliver research projects proposed by older people. I have also started to work with colleagues involved in the production of MOOCs, to consider ways in which these could be used more effectively both to support group study by the U3A and other organisations, and draw on the knowledge and experience of older people in the continued development of content for online courses.

The Institute for Ageing and Health closes at the end of July 2014 and will be replaced by the new cross-Faculty Newcastle University Institute for Ageing (NUIA). I look forward to supporting the engagement of older people in research in this exciting initiative from my new base in the Open Lab.

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