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We live in remarkable times. This is the first time in history that there will be a disproportionate number of adults over the age of 65 – indeed, in just a few years, there will be more older adults than children under the age of 5. This demographic transition, called the “silver tsunami,” is already creating strain on our nation’s health and economic systems, with concerns over Medicare and Social Security, and well as private sector pensions. But not only America and Europe are facing the silver tsunami – most countries in Asia, South America and Africa are also bracing themselves for aging populations.
Living longer is, in many ways, not as important as living healthier. We learned a lot about aging and what not to do from the “Greatest Generation” – our World War II era parents and grandparents. Through them, we learned that smoking contributes to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and osteoporosis – the great scourges of late life. But we also learned that there are huge individual differences in how people age and, through diet, exercise and advances in healthcare, it is possible to live longer and healthier lives. But psychosocial factors, such as stress, socioeconomic status, social support and personality characteristics are also important and may modify the rate at which we age. Will Baby Boomers age differently from their parents? There’s already evidence to suggest that disability rates are going down – fewer than 5 percent of older adults now live in nursing homes. But with increases in obesity and diabetes, will future generations reverse the trend of increasing longevity?
At the Center for Healthy Aging Research (CHAR), our faculty collaborate in fascinating studies on aging, bringing differing perspectives and disciplines – including biomolecular and behavioral scientists, epidemiologists, design specialists and engineers — to this important work. I hope you enjoy reading about them and their ground-breaking research in aging.
Jo Anne Leonard Endowed Director: Center for Healthy Aging Research
College of Public Health and Human Sciences
424 Waldo Hall
Corvallis, OR 97331-5102
Dr. Aldwin's research examines how psychosocial factors affect health, especially how individuals cope with stress. She also examines how personality, mental health and physical health change across the lifespan. She is particularly interested in factors which affect the rate of aging, as well as stress-related growth.