Carstensen to Speak on Lifespan Development

Carstensen to Speak on Lifespan Development

Laura CarstensenStanford University’s Laura Carstensen, whose research suggests that older people are happier, better at regulating their emotions, and have a more positive outlook on the world, will deliver the Bernice Neugarten Lecture on May 22 at Northwestern University.

Carstensen, a pioneer in lifespan developmental psychology, is the founder and director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, which aims to accelerate scientific discoveries and speed technological advances that facilitate healthy aging as well as encourage behavioral practices and social norms that will make century-long lives interesting and rewarding.

Her lecture, “Taking Time Seriously in Lifespan Development,” is in honor of Bernice Neugarten, a world-renowned researcher and writer in the field of human development who founded the Human Development and Social Policy Program at Northwestern. Neugarten’s son, Jerry, is expected to attend the talk, held at 5 p.m. at the McCormick Tribune Forum, 1870 Campus Drive, Evanston.

“Carstensen embodies the multidisciplinary spirit that we in the School of Education and Social Policy (SESP) appreciate so much,” said Northwestern’s Claudia Haase, assistant professor of human development and social policy in the School of Education and Social Policy. “She is one of the reasons I became a life-span developmental scientist.”

Carstensen is best known in academia for her socioemotional selectivity theory, a lifespan theory, which explains why people become happier as they age: People come to appreciate social connections and positive emotions more when they realize that their time on this earth is limited.

She also is the author of A Long Bright Future: Happiness, Health and Financial Security in an Age of Increased Longevity, which debunks popular myths and misconceptions about aging.

Her research has been supported by the National Institute on Aging for more than 25 years, and she is currently supported by a MERIT Award.

The Fairleigh S. Dickinson Jr. Professor in Public Policy, Carstensen is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine and has served on the MacArthur Foundation’s Research Network on an Aging Society and the National Advisory Council on Aging to the National Institute on Aging.

She has won numerous awards, including the Kleemeier Award and Distinguished Mentorship Award from the Gerontological Society of America, as well as a Guggenheim Fellowship. She received a BS from the University of Rochester and PhD in clinical psychology from West Virginia University.

Bernice L. Neugarten

The Human Development and Social Policy Program was established at Northwestern University in 1981 under the leadership of Bernice Neugarten, who was known as a “giant in the field of gerontology” and human development across the lifespan. Neugarten’s vision was to develop a multidisciplinary doctoral program that equally emphasized human development and social policy.

Neugarten examined the life course from earliest childhood to oldest age. While much of her work focused on the second half of life, she portrayed older lives in terms of both earlier life experiences and social context, insights which led to her interest in social policy. Her research challenged stereotypical views of aging by demonstrating that people’s competencies and needs cannot be based on chronological age. 

She served as president of the Gerontological Society of America and played key roles in the 1971 and 1982 White House Conferences on Aging. She received numerous awards, including the Gold Medal Award for Life Contributions by a Psychologist in the Public Interest in 1994 from the American Psychological Association.

By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 5/10/17