Lishman graduated in economics and political science from the University of Manchester in 1968. Together with Tony Greaves, Lishman moved the Liberal Party's Community Politics motion in 1970. In 1980, he co-wrote The Theory and Practice of Community Politics with Bernard Greaves. He was the Liberal Party Parliamentary Candidate for Bradford North in the February 1974 and October 1974 General Elections, and for Pendle in the 1983 and 1987 General Elections. For the Liberal Democrats, he contested Blackburn in the 2015 general election and Pendle in the 2017 general election
Lishman joined Age Concern England in 1974, becoming Director General of the charity in 2000. He left in 2009, after the charity had lost £22 million on the Heyday project, having led the charity through to its merger with Help the Aged, to form a new charity, Age UK.
Lishman was awarded an Honorary Fellowship from the University of Central Lancashire in 2002. In 2007, he was asked by Ivan Lewis to chair the Department of Health’s Nutrition Action Plan Delivery Board.
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- "Mr. Gordon Lishman". Keynote speakers. Ageing Design Montréal. Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 23 September 2008.