Sarah Harper

Sarah Harper

Sarah Harper is a British gerontologist. She achieved particular acclaim when she established Oxford's Institute of Ageing, and became the University of Oxford's first Professor of Gerontology. She holds the first Professorship of Gerontology at the University of Oxford. In 2006 she published Ageing Societies Ageing Societies: Myths, Challenges and Opportunities,[1] and an article "Mature Societies" in Daedelus which set the agenda for a new concept of global gerontology. She is active in both Asia and Europe. In 2008 she was awarded the University of Malaya Chair in Old Age, as a recognition of her unique contribution to research in Asian ageing studies.

In 1986 Harper was elected to serve on the executive of the British Society of Gerontology, while still a postdoctoral researcher, the youngest member ever. The following year she became a visiting professor at the University of Utah and shortly after was invited to take up the Irving B Harris Visiting Chair at the University of Chicago.

In 1997 on her return to the University of Oxford, where she had undertaken her doctoral research, she was invited by the UK Nuffield Foundation to establish and run their new Programme on Older People. The following year she secured funding from the US National Institute of Aging, NIA, for the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, a mirror survey of the US Health and Retirement Study she had experience of while in the US, and to establish the Oxford Centre on Population Ageing. This centre was based on her experience of the Center of Demogtraphy and Economics at the University of Chicago. In 2001 the University of Oxford agreed to convert the population centre into a fully fledged Institute - a unique institute with a focus on global population ageing.

The Oxford Institute of Ageing, a multi-disciplinary research institute, was the first to focus on population ageing at the global, national and individual levels. The structure of the Institute OIA draws on Harper's vision which she outlines in her book Ageing Societies: Myths, Challenges and Opportunites,[1] published in 2006, which addresses the impact of population ageing on work, family, health and society in both the developed and less developed regions.

Harper's main focus has been in taking research into policy and practice, and for engaging the wider academic and public policy community in her vision of global population ageing. In the area of work and pensions Harper is a Governor of the Pensions Policy Institute,[2] a Trustee of Club Vita the new longevity comparison club for occupational pension schemes,[3] and a former Trustee of the Third Age Employment Network.[4] She serves on the Royal Society working group "Population and the Planet"[5] and World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Ageing.[6] Harper has served on the Social Policy and Research Committee of Help the Aged. She has advised the UK Department of Children, Schools and Families on their Education 2030 strategy, the UK department of Science Technology and the Arts, NESTA, on their Age Unlimited Programme, and the UK new Age Equality Board.

Internationally, Harper has worked extensively on ageing in Asia, and was the first chair holder of the International Chair in Old Age Financial Security at the University of Malaya. This is a sister chair to the recently appointed chair in Poverty Studies held by Jeffrey Sachs.[7] She also advises the 3rd Age Council in Singapore on their Active Ageing Programme. She chaired the US McArthur Foundation European Investigation into Economic and Demographic Ageing. Harper also served on the 2006 and 2008 International Scientific Committees of the International Federation of Ageing, IFA,[8] and advised the Portuguese Gulbenkian Foundation on their 2008-09 Time of Life Programme.[9]

Harper's other works include Families in Ageing Societies,[10] OUP 2004 and Ageing in Asia 2008 (with Roger Goodman). Harper founded the International Journal on Population Ageing and is the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Population Ageing, published by Springer.

Harper has served as the Global Advisor on Ageing to the international bank HSBC,[11] and is the Principal Investigator with George Leeson on the Global Ageing Survey, which asked 44,000 people in 24 countries about their attitudes and behaviours towards later life and retirement.


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