Date of release: Thursday, May 22, 2014

Professor Judith BurnettWhat it means to be 'middle aged' forms the subject of a free talk on Tuesday (27 May) by Professor Judith Burnett, a sociologist at the University of Greenwich.

In a seminar at the Institute of Historical Research, Professor Burnett will discuss when and how the concept of middle age emerged. An expert in the sociology of generations, ageing and demographic change, she will also look at broader issues, such as society's way of organising time into various periods or stages. The talk will examine why 'times of life' such as birthdays or other anniversaries include rituals such as gift-buying or are accompanied by particular types of behaviour.

"When does childhood begin and end? And youth? Why do modern manners mean that birthdays may be marked at each decennial? In the seminar, I will examine the emergence of the idea of the phases of life, and the rise of the idea of being middle aged in particular," she says.

The talk, The history of being middle aged: the life-course in sociological perspective, is open to all and forms part of the Life-cycles seminar series. It takes place at 5.15pm in Holden Room 103, Senate House, South Block, Institute of Historical Research, WC1E 3HU.

Professor Burnett, the university's Pro Vice-Chancellor for its Faculty of Architecture, Computing & Humanities, is a trustee of the British Sociological Association. Prior to joining Greenwich in 2013, she held senior positions at the University of Wolverhampton, including Acting Pro Vice-Chancellor (Academic) and founding Dean of the School of Law, Social Sciences & Communications.

She has led a number of developments in international education, including the establishment of a shared research centre with a Chinese university.

"The Life-cycles seminar addresses  issues relating to the life-cycle such as age, intergenerational relationships, parenthood, ageing, childhood and youth, from long-chronological and interdisciplinary perspectives. It was founded by Mary Clare Martin (University of Greenwich), and is co-organised with Dr Simon Sleight (King's College, London) and Dr Tim Reinke-Williams (University of Northampton)".

Story by Public Relations