Home » News » Columbia Establishes Interdisciplinary Aging Center 01/14/2014

Columbia Establishes Interdisciplinary Aging Center

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Stephanie Berger



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Ursula M. Staudinger Appointed Director of New Center Named for Robert N. Butler

With a mission to explore and better understand the aging process and its societal implications, Columbia University has established a university-wide, interdisciplinary aging center. Its inaugural director is Ursula M. Staudinger, PhD, who previously served as founding dean of the Jacobs Center on Lifelong Learning and Institutional Development at Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany, and is currently vice president of the German National Academy of Sciences.

“We are proud to have created this new center that will mobilize the intellectual resources of the entire University to address the challenges and opportunities that demographic change pose for individuals and society alike,” says Columbia University Provost John Coatsworth.

The Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center is named for the founding director of the National Institute on Aging — a physician, gerontologist, psychiatrist, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, and graduate of Columbia College and Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Located at the Mailman School of Public Health, at Columbia University Medical Center, the Butler Columbia Aging Center reflects the University’s recognition that the study of aging is inherently multidisciplinary. The center organizes and builds on existing aging-related programs and activities, translating scientific knowledge into policy and practice. It focuses on the systemic nature of aging — the continuous interaction among biological, behavioral, and sociocultural factors that constitutes human development. It will forge partnerships with the academic, corporate, nonprofit, and public sectors to develop policies on aging, engage communities, and effect societal change.

The Butler Columbia Aging Center consists of an Aging Lab and the International Longevity Center, founded by Dr. Butler in 1990. The Aging Lab is dedicated to research on aging, as well as on ways that individuals and society can benefit from the latest scientific knowledge. That research enables the International Longevity Center to develop public policies and education and community-outreach programs. The longevity center is part of a global consortium of 13 such centers, including ones in Cape Town, Paris, and Tokyo.

Dr. Staudinger’s vision for the Butler Columbia Aging Center is best captured in its motto: “Living is Aging and Aging Means Living.” “The center’s mission is to strengthen the knowledge base needed to optimize aging for each individual, as well as to build a society that supports longer, healthier lives,” says Dr. Staudinger.
At the Jacobs Center, Dr. Staudinger focused on understanding the basis of productive aging, with an emphasis on educational processes and the labor market. Previously, she held a chair in lifespan psychology at the Technical University in Dresden and for many years was a senior researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin. Her research produced important findings on cognition and personality aging, as well as new understanding of wisdom across the lifespan. In addition to her continuing role at the German National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Staudinger is chairwoman of the German Federal Institute of Population Research and vice chair of the Volkswagen Foundation.

“The establishment of this center reflects society’s changing expectations of the stages of the human lifespan in terms of health and productivity,” says Lee Goldman, MD, dean of the faculties of health sciences and medicine at Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons and executive vice president for health and biomedical sciences at Columbia University Medical Center. “It also reflects the interdisciplinary approach that characterizes Columbia.”
“Our recruitment of Dr. Staudinger enhances Columbia’s position as a true leader in bringing knowledge and evidence to create a world of longer lives that is good for all ages,” says