Although face-to-face gatherings have been allowed in England for some time now, conferences – potential super-spreader events – are still happening remotely. Makes sense of course, especially with COVID-19 cases and mortality rates rising again, given the lack of public health restrictions in place.
So, the 3rd annual Liverpool Dementia & Ageing Research Conference took place virtually again this year. We had 11 speakers to share their research, lived experiences of caring for someone with dementia and being a public adviser in research, and discuss their community services for dementia.
In planning the conference, just like with conducting research, the aim for me is to always include non-academics as speakers as well, including clinicians, social care providers, as well as people affected by dementia. We heard about a great mix of topics – from post-stroke vision impairment in older adults, care home staff vaccinations, a new family carer resilience tool, and psychological impacts of COVID-19 restrictions on older adults in low- and middle-income countries, amongst others. We also heard from the Liverpool Dementia Action Alliance (link: ), which the Dementia Forum is a member of, and how they are trying to turn Liverpool into a dementia-friendly community . The House of Memories  also shared some of their latest undertakings – from digital app developments in different languages to their On the Road programme. Both of these approaches help to bring their dementia awareness programme out into communities and widening access, something not always done and clearly a bright shining example of what can be achieved!
Also, Hilary Tetlow, a carer for someone living with dementia and co-lead of the Service User Reference Forum Liverpool (a peer-support group for people with dementia and unpaid carers), shared her caring experiences and how the sector has been affected during the pandemic. Hilary also shared her experiences of being a public adviser in the COVID-19 dementia research that I have been leading on (and no, I have not paid her to say positive things!).
The audience was equally mixed, with the majority being health and social care providers and people from 3rd Sector organisations. We also had many unpaid carers present. This was particularly notable when we had question times after each talk, and in the breakout room discussions at the end of the conference. It made for a much more engaging and interesting conference, and there was lots of food for thought of what could be done next.
Speaking about next, whilst the conference is available on our NIHR ARC NWC Youtube channel  for everyone to watch, the planning for next year’s conference will be even bigger, and I am recruiting some help for that! The 4th annual Liverpool Dementia & Ageing Research Conference will take place on the 12th of October 2022, very likely in person at the University of Liverpool. What will be new? Quite a bit! In the past 3 years, I have invited people in the field to present, given that the Forum was still in its infancy and growing. Now, that more and more people are attending the bimonthly webinars, journal clubs, and conferences, the though is to reflect this in next year’s conference.
For the first time, we will be inviting abstract submissions. I am currently putting together a fancy, or wanna-be fancy, proper webpage for the Forum, which will have a dedicated page for the Conference and information on abstract submissions. Applications will open in the new year, but watch this space! Abstracts will be invited from anyone with professional, academic, and lived experiences of dementia and ageing.
That means, I will need a bit of help to sift through those abstracts, organise the full day, and sort out logistics. For this reason, I will be looking to put together a Conference Committee, purposefully selected to represent academia, health and social care, 3rd sector, and people affected by dementia.
So whilst this year’s conference may be over, planning for next year’s is starting shortly. Hoping it will be of interest to many people, and hoping we will see lots of abstract submissions!
Dr Clarissa Giebel  is a Research Fellow at the University of Liverpool and NIHR ARC North West Coast. Clarissa has been working in dementia care research for over 10 years focusing her research on helping people with dementia to live at home independently and well for longer, addressing inequalities that people with dementia and carers can face. Outside of her day work, Clarissa has also organised a local dementia network – the Liverpool Dementia & Ageing Research Forum, and has recently started her own podcast called the Ageing Scientist .