Ljubljana squareLjubljana, a compact tree lined city, sandwiched between Italy, Croatia and Austria; a wonderful blend, and possibly the best ice cream I have ever tasted!

Faculty signEarlier this year, I was lucky enough to visit Ljubljana University, home to the Faculty of Social Sciences who played host to the third ROSEnet training school. Alongside 13 other early career researchers from 10 different European countries I was awarded a ROSEnet grant to attend and participate in a training school on social exclusion in later life. ROSEnet – Reducing Old-Age Social Exclusion: Collaborations in Research and Policy is one of the COST Actions, is chaired by Professor Kieran Walsh and comprises of over 167 researchers and stakeholders from 41 countries. Each year ROSEnet announces an open call for early career researchers (ECRs) to apply to the training schools, and through a competitive process grants are awarded to support ECRs with their travel and subsistence costs to attend and take part in the training.

I was thrilled when I received the email notifying me that my application had been successful and I was to be soon jetting off for Ljubljana. As my departure date grew closer, I was however beginning to feel slightly apprehensive about travelling on my own to an unfamiliar city, and one that I was pretty sure I couldn’t pronounce correctly (its lyoo-BLYAH-nah by the way!). Fears were allayed by some very reassuring emails received from the ROSEnet team prior to the school, giving us essential information on where best to stay and other logistics, and introducing everyone to the school.

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The ROSenet training schools are funded through the European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST). COST funds pan-European, bottom-up networks of scientists and researchers across all science and technology fields. These networks, called ‘COST Actions’, promote international coordination of nationally-funded research. COST does not fund research itself. ROSEnet is one of the COST Actions and is focused on old age exclusion in economic, social, services, civic-rights, and community and spatial domains, and on understanding how these forms of disadvantage interact in old age, and the ways in which developing shared understandings of exclusion in later life can direct meaningful policy and practice.

The series of training schools is one of several ways in which ROSEnet is addressing the research-policy disconnect on old age exclusion. The training schools (four to be delivered in total) are held on a broad theme and focussed sessions are delivered by international experts who offer teaching and mentoring during the school. The schools are aligned to developing capacity amongst early careers researchers and offer some form of academic skill training.  The Ljubljana training school focused on ‘how to deliver academic presentations’, and my three days in Ljubljana were spent in conversation; debating and learning from across Europe on the key issues relating to social exclusion in older age.  On the last day of the school we each had to deliver our research to the group and, although daunting, it was most definitely a highlight to present my PhD research on ‘Well-being of older family carers of people living with dementia in Wales’ to the group and gain valuable feedback from leading international experts.

Meeting and exchanging information across nationalities is undoubtedly one of the main benefits of attending a ROSEnet training school and the training schools are a great platform for early career researchers to access some of the most cutting-edge thinking on Group2old age social exclusion. But perhaps of even greater value was being part of an emerging and lively critical mass of multidisciplinary researchers attempting to deliver research in diverse ways, and ways that can make a difference for older people.

So in summary, the ROSEnet training school provided me a valuable space for learning, networking, debating, and in the case of Ljubljana, enjoying the delights of this wonderful city! The training schools are continuing and in spring 2019 applications will open for the fourth ROSEnet training school .

The Centre for Innovative Ageing at Swansea University will host the fourth and final training school in the summer of 2019.  This will be focused on ‘policy and practice challenges in old age exclusion’.  Further details will be shared via the ROSEnet network, and you can sign up to receive updates by visiting the ROSEnet website.  Whilst you are there watch the ROSEnet policy message video which gives a great overview of the key messages coming from this important work. Although Swansea may not be able to compete with Ljubljanan ice-cream, it will certainly provide a unique and invaluable experience for anyone pursuing research in this area.

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Maria Cheshire-Allen is a researcher and PhD candidate working on older age social care, older carers, dementia care givers, exclusion and well-being.  Contact m.cheshire-allen@swansea.ac.uk @mariacallen76