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Influencers in Aging 2015: Changing Our Aging Society

Meet Next Avenue’s 2015 Influencers in Aging. These 50 thought leaders, innovators, writers, advocates, experts and others are changing how we age and think about aging.   Next Avenue Names the 50 Most Influential People in Aging  | About Influencers in Aging

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The List


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Influencer of the Year

Dr. Atul Gawande

Next Avenue recognizes Dr. Atul Gawande as the 2015 Influencer of the Year for his role in pushing for patient-centered care for the terminally ill. His bestselling book Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End is as much about living as about facing life’s inevitable end. People with terminal conditions are too often given false hope and are overtreated in the medical system. Instead, Gawande argues, we should ask those patients what they want from their remaining days. If his ideas about these conversations became part of the norm, this country’s approach to care would radically change. More about Atul Gawande.

atul-gawandes-compelling-documentary-takes-on-lifes-end.jpgNext Avenue recognizes Dr. Atul Gawande as the 2015 Influencer of the Year for his role in pushing for patient-centered care for the terminally ill. His bestselling book Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End is as much about living as about facing life’s inevitable end. People with terminal conditions are too often given false hope and are overtreated in the medical system. Instead, Gawande argues, we should ask those patients what they want from their remaining days. If his ideas about these conversations became part of the norm, this country’s approach to care would radically change. More about Atul Gawande.

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

"That we ask people facing serious illness/infirmity: What are your top priorities in your life? What is a good day to you? And we listen." - Dr. Atul Gawande

Sudipto Banerjee

Work & Purpose

Sudipto Banerjee

His title, research associate at the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), doesn’t do justice to Sudipto Banerjee’s groundbreaking analysis of the economic aspects of retirement.

He has written important, sometimes controversial, reports on topics ranging from the growing number of Americans in poverty to early withdrawals from 401(k)s and IRAs to the spending patterns of elderly Americans to the effect of nursing home stays on the assets of their residents.

Sudipto BanerjeeHis title, research associate at the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), doesn’t do justice to Sudipto Banerjee’s groundbreaking analysis of the economic aspects of retirement.

He has written important, sometimes controversial, reports on topics ranging from the growing number of Americans in poverty to early withdrawals from 401(k)s and IRAs to the spending patterns of elderly Americans to the effect of nursing home stays on the assets of their residents.

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

"I wish every American was aware of the catastrophic effect long-term care costs can have on their retirement and plan accordingly."- Sudipto Banerjee

Barbara Beskind

Living & Learning

Barbara Beskind

Some people have contagious energy, and Barbara Beskind is one of them. At 91, she works with IDEO, a global design company. Beskind specializes in design for older adults, bringing a personal perspective to the work. She can tell young designers what it’s like to have macular degeneration, for instance, or that people she knows have a real fear of falling and need tools and products to prevent and soften potential falls.

In her early career, Beskind made her mark as an occupational therapist (women generally couldn’t get the engineering degrees needed to become designers in those days). She developed inflatable equipment that helped children who needed it develop their balance.

Beskind now designs products for her peers. Hers was one of the most memorable quotes at the White House Conference on Aging when she said simply, “Design with, not for.”

Barbara BeskindSome people have contagious energy, and Barbara Beskind is one of them. At 91, she works with IDEO, a global design company. Beskind specializes in design for older adults, bringing a personal perspective to the work. She can tell young designers what it’s like to have macular degeneration, for instance, or that people she knows have a real fear of falling and need tools and products to prevent and soften potential falls.

In her early career, Beskind made her mark as an occupational therapist (women generally couldn’t get the engineering degrees needed to become designers in those days). She developed inflatable equipment that helped children who needed it develop their balance.

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Beskind now designs products for her peers. Hers was one of the most memorable quotes at the White House Conference on Aging when she said simply, “Design with, not for.”

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

"I recommend good posture and a brisk 30-minute walk daily from early childhood on. This builds bone density and balance reflexes that reduce the rate of falls and injuries in later years.” - Barbara Beskind

Dan Buettner

Living & Learning

Dan Buettner

How can we live longer with good health? That question drove Dan Buettner’s 2008 bestselling book, The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest.

Buettner’s research into the longevity hotspots around the world that he calls blue zones led him to determine that good health is better achieved through changes in environment than reliance on individual willpower. He believes that a strong sense of community and purpose is critical to overall health.

Through an experiment conducted in a Minnesota town, he found that adding walking paths from neighborhoods to the shopping center boosted overall activity, and making a school policy to ban snacking in hallways and classrooms helped kids lose excess weight.

A popular speaker and teacher, Buettner spreads the blue zones gospel, showing how societies can engineer the best environments for happier, healthier and longer lives.

Dan BuettnerHow can we live longer with good health? That question drove Dan Buettner’s 2008 bestselling book, The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest.

Buettner’s research into the longevity hotspots around the world that he calls blue zones led him to determine that good health is better achieved through changes in environment than reliance on individual willpower. He believes that a strong sense of community and purpose is critical to overall health.

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Through an experiment conducted in a Minnesota town, he found that adding walking paths from neighborhoods to the shopping center boosted overall activity, and making a school policy to ban snacking in hallways and classrooms helped kids lose excess weight.

A popular speaker and teacher, Buettner spreads the blue zones gospel, showing how societies can engineer the best environments for happier, healthier and longer lives.

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

"Shift more of the $2 trillion we spend annually on sickness and spend it more on keeping people healthy in the first place." - Dan Buettner

Donna Butts

Living & Learning

Donna Butts

Inspiring people of different ages to work together toward a common purpose is no small task. As executive director of Generations United, Donna Butts has tackled this work for nearly 20 years, tirelessly looking for ways we all can help, support and understand one another.

When it comes to aging, her biggest aim is to have it be about benefit, not burden. Older people should contribute their talents and ideas at work, home and in society, and not be shoved to the corner, Butts believes. From tackling ways to improve the environment to sharing ideas about creating intergenerational communities, Butts and her organization are a tireless voice for coming together.

Donna ButtsInspiring people of different ages to work together toward a common purpose is no small task. As executive director of Generations United, Donna Butts has tackled this work for nearly 20 years, tirelessly looking for ways we all can help, support and understand one another.

When it comes to aging, her biggest aim is to have it be about benefit, not burden. Older people should contribute their talents and ideas at work, home and in society, and not be shoved to the corner, Butts believes. From tackling ways to improve the environment to sharing ideas about creating intergenerational communities, Butts and her organization are a tireless voice for coming together.

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

"Move the discussion about aging from burden to benefit: smashing silos that segregate generations, preventing them from contributing to each other’s well-being." - Donna Butts

Glen Campbell

Living & Learning

Glen Campbell

Music legend Glen Campbell and his wife, Kim Campbell, made a significant contribution to education about Alzheimer’s disease through the documentary Glen Campbell ... I’ll Be Me.  The award-winning film followed Campbell on his final multi-city tour after his Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

At times warm, funny and heart-wrenching, the documentary gives a realistic view into what the disease does to a whole family. And Campbell’s place in the pantheon of country and pop music gives him a powerful position to share that picture widely. The courage he showed by opening his home, family life and heart during a time of vulnerability only makes us admire Campbell more.

As the movie’s co-producer James Keach told Next Avenue: “Glen and his family… have really dedicated their life to changing the face of Alzheimer’s in America.” 

Glen CampbellMusic legend Glen Campbell and his wife, Kim Campbell, made a significant contribution to education about Alzheimer’s disease through the documentary Glen Campbell ... I’ll Be Me.  The award-winning film followed Campbell on his final multi-city tour after his Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

At times warm, funny and heart-wrenching, the documentary gives a realistic view into what the disease does to a whole family. And Campbell’s place in the pantheon of country and pop music gives him a powerful position to share that picture widely. The courage he showed by opening his home, family life and heart during a time of vulnerability only makes us admire Campbell more.

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As the movie’s co-producer James Keach told Next Avenue: “Glen and his family… have really dedicated their life to changing the face of Alzheimer’s in America.” 

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

“I would like to see us shift from viewing older adults in terms of what they can’t do to focusing on what they can do and giving them the love and support they need to do it." — Kim Campbell, speaking on behalf of her husband

Peter Cappelli

Work & Purpose

Peter Cappelli

Director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Center for Human Resources and a management professor at The Wharton School, Peter Cappelli is an acclaimed expert on the nation’s long-term unemployed and their difficulties getting hired as well as changing career paths. Cappelli’s book, Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs, helped spark a national conversation about the broken hiring process at many employers, preventing capable applicants from finding work.

A research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, Cappelli was a staff member on the U.S. Secretary of Labor’s Commission on Workforce Quality and Labor Market Efficiency. He was named by HR Magazine one of the top five most influential thinkers in management.

Peter CappelliDirector of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Center for Human Resources and a management professor at The Wharton School, Peter Cappelli is an acclaimed expert on the nation’s long-term unemployed and their difficulties getting hired as well as changing career paths. Cappelli’s book, Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs, helped spark a national conversation about the broken hiring process at many employers, preventing capable applicants from finding work.

A research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, Cappelli was a staff member on the U.S. Secretary of Labor’s Commission on Workforce Quality and Labor Market Efficiency. He was named by HR Magazine one of the top five most influential thinkers in management.

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

"Get people to be more aware of the value of experience. This is especially true in the workplace, where we see that value demonstrated daily yet we continue to ignore it." - Peter Cappelli

Laura Carstensen

Living & Learning

Laura L. Carstensen

Laura Carstensen’s revolutionary challenges to negative views about aging have resulted in an ongoing societal transformation. A professor, author and founder of the Stanford Center for Longevity, Carstensen has repeatedly questioned why aging is considered bad, and found ways to explore and explain its many positives.

Looking through the lens of lifespan, she and her colleagues seek to solve the problems of those over 50 while making life better for all. Her latest publications have looked at both lifespan and workspan, and how, with our increased longevity, we might change our concepts of work and retirement.

Note:  The Stanford Center for Longevity is a Next Avenue content partner. 

Laura CarstensenLaura Carstensen’s revolutionary challenges to negative views about aging have resulted in an ongoing societal transformation. A professor, author and founder of the Stanford Center for Longevity, Carstensen has repeatedly questioned why aging is considered bad, and found ways to explore and explain its many positives.

Looking through the lens of lifespan, she and her colleagues seek to solve the problems of those over 50 while making life better for all. Her latest publications have looked at both lifespan and workspan, and how, with our increased longevity, we might change our concepts of work and retirement.

<Read More >

Note:  The Stanford Center for Longevity is a Next Avenue content partner. 

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

"In order to fully realize the opportunities before us, we must begin and sustain a conversation about new ways of living very long lives." - Laura L. Carstensen

Roz Chast

Caregiving

Roz Chast

In Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, a memoir that became a bestseller, the longtime New Yorker cartoonist poignantly and hilariously portrays caregiving for her parents.

The book, which was the first graphic book to be named a finalist for the nonfiction National Book Award, strikes a universal chord for anyone who has cared for an older adult.

It illustrates with her characteristic, wry humor the love Chast feels for her parents and the heartbreak of seeing them slip away, while not sugarcoating the frustration, guilt and exhaustion that come with caregiving. Readers have responded, telling Chast she has shared their story, too.

Roz ChastIn Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, a memoir that became a bestseller, the longtime New Yorker cartoonist poignantly and hilariously portrays caregiving for her parents.

The book, which was the first graphic book to be named a finalist for the nonfiction National Book Award, strikes a universal chord for anyone who has cared for an older adult.

<Read More >

It illustrates with her characteristic, wry humor the love Chast feels for her parents and the heartbreak of seeing them slip away, while not sugarcoating the frustration, guilt and exhaustion that come with caregiving. Readers have responded, telling Chast she has shared their story, too.

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

"We need to stop pretending that aging and death do not exist. It's babyish and it just makes things worse." - Roz Chast

Susan Collins

Money & Security

Sen. Susan Collins

The chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has been shining a light on vital issues affecting older Americans through hearings and reports on the cost of prescription drugs; the financial exploitation of seniors; work in retirement; aging in place and other matters. Sen. Collins is currently serving her fourth term in the Senate.

The co-chair of the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease, Sen. Collins has been a force on Capitol Hill to increase funding for Alzheimer’s research and to improve support for family caregivers. She has also worked to improve home health care for Medicare beneficiaries.

Susan CollinsThe chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has been shining a light on vital issues affecting older Americans through hearings and reports on the cost of prescription drugs; the financial exploitation of seniors; work in retirement; aging in place and other matters. Sen. Collins is currently serving her fourth term in the Senate.

The co-chair of the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease, Sen. Collins has been a force on Capitol Hill to increase funding for Alzheimer’s research and to improve support for family caregivers. She has also worked to improve home health care for Medicare beneficiaries.

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

"I would change attitudes so that America’s seniors are afforded the dignity, safety and security they have earned through lifetimes of contribution." - Sen. Susan Collins

Barbara Coombs Lee

Caregiving

Barbara Coombs Lee

Barbara Coombs Lee serves as the longtime president of the nonprofit Compassion & Choices, which according to its website, is “committed to helping everyone have the best death possible.”

Coombs Lee and her organization work to lessen the suffering of the terminally ill and give them control in their last days. They offer free consultation, resources for planning and referrals. They also advocate on the state and national level for right-to-die legislation and laws to ensure people receive full information and access to end-of-life care options, including the choice to refuse care.

Coombs Lee previously spent 25 years as a nurse practitioner and physician assistant, often caring for dying patients. She then became an attorney and worked in health policy, advocating for personal choice in health care. She co-authored the Oregon Death with Dignity bill and served as a senior adviser for the Washington state Death with Dignity ballot initiative.

Barbara Coombs LeeBarbara Coombs Lee serves as the longtime president of the nonprofit Compassion & Choices, which according to its website, is “committed to helping everyone have the best death possible.”

Coombs Lee and her organization work to lessen the suffering of the terminally ill and give them control in their last days. They offer free consultation, resources for planning and referrals. They also advocate on the state and national level for right-to-die legislation and laws to ensure people receive full information and access to end-of-life care options, including the choice to refuse care.

<Read More >

Coombs Lee previously spent 25 years as a nurse practitioner and physician assistant, often caring for dying patients. She then became an attorney and worked in health policy, advocating for personal choice in health care. She co-authored the Oregon Death with Dignity bill and served as a senior adviser for the Washington state Death with Dignity ballot initiative.

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

"Reform our health care system to maximize our quality of life and minimize end-of-life suffering by not prolonging a painful dying process." - Barbara Coombs Lee

Joseph Coughlin

Living & Learning

Joseph F. Coughlin

Joseph F. Coughlin is director of the MIT AgeLab, a research group exploring the nexus of business, technology and aging.

His team’s inventions include the AGNES suit, allowing wearers to experience age-related physical challenges, and the AwareCar, which collects vehicle and driver data to improve automobile safety and navigation for older adults.

Through his popular blog, Disruptive Demographics, Coughlin explores how the growing number of aging people across the globe will disrupt society — and lead to innovation. 

He envisions a lively, vital future for older people that includes everything from robot helpers to on-demand Internet services to wider sidewalks and park benches in high-density communities. Those ideas and how they all fit together inspire enthusiasm for a new way of aging.

Joseph CoughlinJoseph F. Coughlin is director of the MIT AgeLab, a research group exploring the nexus of business, technology and aging.

His team’s inventions include the AGNES suit, allowing wearers to experience age-related physical challenges, and the AwareCar, which collects vehicle and driver data to improve automobile safety and navigation for older adults.

<Read More >

Through his popular blog, Disruptive Demographics, Coughlin explores how the growing number of aging people across the globe will disrupt society — and lead to innovation. 

He envisions a lively, vital future for older people that includes everything from robot helpers to on-demand Internet services to wider sidewalks and park benches in high-density communities. Those ideas and how they all fit together inspire enthusiasm for a new way of aging.

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

"I would transform the public definition of aging from problem to unprecedented opportunity, a new endless frontier to invent how everyone will live longer better." - Joseph F. Coughlin

Tobey Dichter

Work & Purpose

Tobey Dichter

The founder and unpaid chief executive officer of the nonprofit Generations on Line, Tobey Gordon Dichter helps people over 65 use the Internet, iPads and tablets. The Generations on Line software program provides step-by-step instructions and is available for free through places where they live and congregate. It’s now in more than 1,800 facilities in English and Spanish. Generations on Line recently launched a program to teach older, low-income people how to apply for jobs online, which it hopes to roll out nationwide.

Dichter was an Encore.org Purpose Prize Fellow in 2006 and was formerly vice president of communications and public affairs and executive committee member at SmithKline Beecham Healthcare Services.

Tobey DichterThe founder and unpaid chief executive officer of the nonprofit Generations on Line, Tobey Gordon Dichter helps people over 65 use the Internet, iPads and tablets. The Generations on Line software program provides step-by-step instructions and is available for free through places where they live and congregate. It’s now in more than 1,800 facilities in English and Spanish. Generations on Line recently launched a program to teach older, low-income people how to apply for jobs online, which it hopes to roll out nationwide.

Dichter was an Encore.org Purpose Prize Fellow in 2006 and was formerly vice president of communications and public affairs and executive committee member at SmithKline Beecham Healthcare Services.

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

“When I grow up, at age 90, I want America to respect and include me — with places, mores and policies that make it fun to be older and wiser!” - Tobey Dichter

Nora Dowd

Money & Security

Nora Dowd Eisenhower

The assistant director for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Office of Older Americans, Nora Dowd Eisenhower works to prevent older Americans from getting scammed and to help them make their money last. Among her efforts there: alerting people about inaccurate statements in reverse mortgage advertising and advising older Americans on dealing with debt collection problems.

Previously, she was the National Council on Aging’s senior vice president of economic security and director of its National Center for Benefits Outreach and Enrollment. Before that, Eisenhower was secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Aging and executive director for AARP Pennsylvania.

A longtime advocate for older Americans, Eisenhower took on health care fraud among Medicare beneficiaries while working at the Center of Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly.

Nora DowdThe assistant director for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Office of Older Americans, Nora Dowd Eisenhower works to prevent older Americans from getting scammed and to help them make their money last. Among her efforts there: alerting people about inaccurate statements in reverse mortgage advertising and advising older Americans on dealing with debt collection problems.

Previously, she was the National Council on Aging’s senior vice president of economic security and director of its National Center for Benefits Outreach and Enrollment. Before that, Eisenhower was secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Aging and executive director for AARP Pennsylvania.

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A longtime advocate for older Americans, Eisenhower took on health care fraud among Medicare beneficiaries while working at the Center of Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly.

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

“Now that many of us are living a long life while carrying debt into our later years, we need to change how we plan for a financially secure retirement.” - Nora Dowd Eisenhower

Vickie Elisa

Money & Security

Vickie Elisa

The president of Mothers’ Voices Georgiaan Atlanta-based nonprofit that empowers women to improve the economic and health outcomes for women and children, Vickie Elisa developed Smart Women and Money, a grassroots financial education program for at-risk women. The program has served more than 100,000 women around the world. Elisa is also director of marketing and business development and public health accreditation coordinator for the DeKalb County Board of Health.

A popular speaker on financial empowerment for women, Elisa served on the 2015 White House Conference on Aging’s panel, Planning for Financial Security at Every Ageand introduced President Barack Obama at the conference. Elisa’s impressive work grew out of personal experience. After surviving a messy divorce that left her $30,000 in debt and temporarily homeless, Elisa realized she needed to drastically change her economic landscape, which led to the creation of Mothers’ Voices Georgia.

Note:  Elisa is a community trainer for WISER, a Next Avenue content partner. 

Vickie ElisaThe president of Mothers’ Voices Georgiaan Atlanta-based nonprofit that empowers women to improve the economic and health outcomes for women and children, Vickie Elisa developed Smart Women and Money, a grassroots financial education program for at-risk women. The program has served more than 100,000 women around the world. Elisa is also director of marketing and business development and public health accreditation coordinator for the DeKalb County Board of Health.

A popular speaker on financial empowerment for women, Elisa served on the 2015 White House Conference on Aging’s panel, Planning for Financial Security at Every Ageand introduced President Barack Obama at the conference. Elisa’s impressive work grew out of personal experience. After surviving a messy divorce that left her $30,000 in debt and temporarily homeless, Elisa realized she needed to drastically change her economic landscape, which led to the creation of Mothers’ Voices Georgia.

<Read More >

Note:  Elisa is a community trainer for WISER, a Next Avenue content partner. 

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

"I would work to change the perception that you are supposed to lose everything — your looks, sexiness, brain matter and value as a woman once your biological clock passes 25.  You can’t even begin to truly realize who you are as a woman, what you really believe, how to stand up for yourself in social settings and in workplaces, until you’ve turned 50. If orange is the new black, then let’s make 50 for women in America the new, sexy improved 30!” - Vickie Elisa

Ezekiel Emanuel

Health & Well-Being

Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel

Dr. Zeke Emanuel, an oncologist, author and medical ethicist, is a provocateur who suggests we skip our annual physical and ask ourselves if we want to live much past 75.

An architect of the Affordable Care Act as an adviser to President Obama, Emanuel wrote the book Reinventing American Health Care: How the Affordable Care Act Will Improve our Terribly Complex, Blatantly Unjust, Outrageously Expensive, Grossly Inefficient, Error Prone System. In it, he explains why the American health care system is the way it is (why, for instance, hospitals are so dominant) and identifies five obstacles to reform.

In October 2014, Emanuel published a buzzy article in The Atlantic magazine called Why I Hope to Die at 75, which ignited a national discussion about life, death and whether longevity itself is a worthy goal.

He is vice provost for global initiatives, a professor and chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania.

Ezekiel Emanuel Dr. Zeke Emanuel, an oncologist, author and medical ethicist, is a provocateur who suggests we skip our annual physical and ask ourselves if we want to live much past 75.

An architect of the Affordable Care Act as an adviser to President Obama, Emanuel wrote the book Reinventing American Health Care: How the Affordable Care Act Will Improve our Terribly Complex, Blatantly Unjust, Outrageously Expensive, Grossly Inefficient, Error Prone System. In it, he explains why the American health care system is the way it is (why, for instance, hospitals are so dominant) and identifies five obstacles to reform.

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In October 2014, Emanuel published a buzzy article in The Atlantic magazine called Why I Hope to Die at 75, which ignited a national discussion about life, death and whether longevity itself is a worthy goal.

He is vice provost for global initiatives, a professor and chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania.

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

"A meaningful life is meaningful work and relationships — both need mental functioning. Preserving high mental functioning is key." - Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel

Katy Fike

Living & Learning

Katy Fike

Katy Fike studied systems engineering and worked in investment banking before earning a Ph.D. in gerontology. Putting all those things together, she’s figured out how to fund and distribute cool tech innovations — like the 11-inch Jibo personal robot — that will serve the needs of a growing number of older adults.

In 2012, Fike co-founded Aging 2.0 with Stephen Johnston and went in search of great tech ideas in the aging and long-term care space. More recently, she helped launch Generator Ventures to fund age-related startups. The result is that ever more helpful products — such as sensors that help make it safe for seniors to live alone and personal airbags to cushion a fall — are becoming widely available.

Katy FikeKaty Fike studied systems engineering and worked in investment banking before earning a Ph.D. in gerontology. Putting all those things together, she’s figured out how to fund and distribute cool tech innovations — like the 11-inch Jibo personal robot — that will serve the needs of a growing number of older adults.

In 2012, Fike co-founded Aging 2.0 with Stephen Johnston and went in search of great tech ideas in the aging and long-term care space. More recently, she helped launch Generator Ventures to fund age-related startups. The result is that ever more helpful products — such as sensors that help make it safe for seniors to live alone and personal airbags to cushion a fall — are becoming widely available.

“If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?”

I would erase ageism because it permeates everything about aging in America — how older adults are treated, valued and cared for. In order to improve the aging experience, we need to elevate the role of elders in our society. - Katy Fike

James Firman

Money & Security

James Firman

The president and chief executive officer of the National Council on Aging (NCOA) for the past 20 years, James Firman has championed older Americans for three decades. At NCOA, Firman has helped develop a variety of programs to improve the health, independence and economic security of older adults, including the useful websites Benefits CheckUp, which has helped more than 4 million people find over $15 billion worth of benefits.

Before joining NCOA, Firman was founder and CEO of the United Seniors Health Cooperative, a nonprofit consumer group, and helped develop federal Medigap legislation and long-term care insurance regulations. Firman has been named one of The Nonprofit Times Top 50 leaders multiple times. 

Note: The National Council on Aging is a Next Avenue content partner. 

James FirmanThe president and chief executive officer of the National Council on Aging (NCOA) for the past 20 years, James Firman has championed older Americans for three decades. At NCOA, Firman has helped develop a variety of programs to improve the health, independence and economic security of older adults, including the useful websites Benefits CheckUp, which has helped more than 4 million people find over $15 billion worth of benefits.

Before joining NCOA, Firman was founder and CEO of the United Seniors Health Cooperative, a nonprofit consumer group, and helped develop federal Medigap legislation and long-term care insurance regulations. Firman has been named one of The Nonprofit Times Top 50 leaders multiple times. 

<Read More >

Note: The National Council on Aging is a Next Avenue content partner. 

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

"It’s time to create new norms and expectations for people age 60 to 100. Baby boomers and older adults can continue to shape society. Let’s not squander our longevity!" - James Firman

Karen Fredriksen Goldsen

Caregiving

Karen I. Fredriksen-Goldsen

University of Washington Social Work Professor Karen I. Fredriksen-Goldsen directs the school’s Institute for Multigenerational Health and in 2014 launched the university’s Healthy Generations Hartford Center of Excellence, which trains social workers to better address problems of older adults.

Fredriksen-Goldsen has focused much of her scholarship on communities that too often get overlooked, such as LGBT and American Indian communities. She is lead researcher of the National Health, Aging and Sexuality Study: Caring and Aging with Pride over Time, the first national longitudinal study on the lack of quality health care for LGBT adults aged 50 and older. The study, funded by a federal grant from the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute on Aging, is also examining their health of the older adults’ caregivers.

Fredriksen-Goldsen is a fellow with the Gerontological Society of America. She has published three books and more than 75 articles.

Karen Fredriksen GoldsenUniversity of Washington Social Work Professor Karen I. Fredriksen-Goldsen directs the school’s Institute for Multigenerational Health and in 2014 launched the university’s Healthy Generations Hartford Center of Excellence, which trains social workers to better address problems of older adults.

Fredriksen-Goldsen has focused much of her scholarship on communities that too often get overlooked, such as LGBT and American Indian communities. She is lead researcher of the National Health, Aging and Sexuality Study: Caring and Aging with Pride over Time, the first national longitudinal study on the lack of quality health care for LGBT adults aged 50 and older. The study, funded by a federal grant from the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute on Aging, is also examining their health of the older adults’ caregivers.

<Read More >

Fredriksen-Goldsen is a fellow with the Gerontological Society of America. She has published three books and more than 75 articles.

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

"Ensure aging creates new opportunities for those invisible to emerge from the margins. LGBT older adults offer vivid historical insights into contemporary society." - Karen I. Fredriksen-Goldsen

Aging50_Honoree_Marc_Freedman_HeadShot

Work & Purpose

Marc Freedman

The founder and chief executive officer of Encore.org, Marc Freedman coined the term “encore career” to describe a second act providing purpose and a paycheck. One of the leading experts on the transformation of retirement, Freedman is author of four books, including The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond Midlife. He was named a 2014 Social Entrepreneur of the Year by the World Economic Forum and the Schwab Foundation.

At Encore, Freedman spearheaded the creation of the Purpose Prize, an annual $100,000 prize for social entrepreneurs in the second half of life. Freedman previously co-founded what is now AARP Experience Corps, the program where people 50 and older tutor low-income elementary school students.

Note: Encore.org is a Next Avenue content partner. 

Aging50_Honoree_Marc_Freedman_HeadShotThe founder and chief executive officer of Encore.org, Marc Freedman coined the term “encore career” to describe a second act providing purpose and a paycheck. One of the leading experts on the transformation of retirement, Freedman is author of four books, including The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond Midlife. He was named a 2014 Social Entrepreneur of the Year by the World Economic Forum and the Schwab Foundation.

At Encore, Freedman spearheaded the creation of the Purpose Prize, an annual $100,000 prize for social entrepreneurs in the second half of life. Freedman previously co-founded what is now AARP Experience Corps, the program where people 50 and older tutor low-income elementary school students.

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Note: Encore.org is a Next Avenue content partner. 

What would you change about aging in America if you could?

"Making the most of the aging opportunity will require a new era of social innovation, starting with creation of a new stage of life between the middle years and old age." - Marc Freedman

Linda Fried

Health & Well-Being

Dr. Linda P. Fried

Scientist and physician Dr. Linda P. Fried is internationally recognized in the fields of epidemiology and geriatrics. She has dedicated her career to researching what it takes to age well and how longevity can benefit not only the old, but the young.

Currently dean of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, Fried has done fundamental scientific research that, among other things, defined frailty as a medical condition that doctors should address.

Her work “has become core knowledge and core teaching in every geriatric program” in the country, Dr. Christine K. Cassel, former president and chief executive officer of the American Board of Internal Medicine, told The New York Times.

With Marc Freedman, another Influencer in Aging, she founded Experience Corps, a community-based program in which volunteers 50 and older work with young students. The program, now run by AARP, benefits both groups and demonstrates the potential win-win of longevity – the children receive tutoring and mentoring, the adults improve their health through the regular activity and interaction.

Linda Fried Scientist and physician Dr. Linda P. Fried is internationally recognized in the fields of epidemiology and geriatrics. She has dedicated her career to researching what it takes to age well and how longevity can benefit not only the old, but the young.

Currently dean of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, Fried has done fundamental scientific research that, among other things, defined frailty as a medical condition that doctors should address.

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Her work “has become core knowledge and core teaching in every geriatric program” in the country, Dr. Christine K. Cassel, former president and chief executive officer of the American Board of Internal Medicine, told The New York Times.

With Marc Freedman, another Influencer in Aging, she founded Experience Corps, a community-based program in which volunteers 50 and older work with young students. The program, now run by AARP, benefits both groups and demonstrates the potential win-win of longevity – the children receive tutoring and mentoring, the adults improve their health through the regular activity and interaction.

“If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?”

"I would create optimism that our now-longer lives are an asset for our families and society, and that we want to invest in the approaches that can bring that fully to life." - Dr. Linda P. Fried

Lisa Genova

Caregiving

Lisa Genova

Lisa Genova, who earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Harvard University, wrote the bestselling Still Alice, her initially self-published book about a 50-year-old linguistics professor diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The book became a major motion picture, released in January 2015. Described as both heartbreaking and inspiring, Still Alice helped to humanize Alzheimer’s, a subject that too many have preferred to avoid.

Her latest book, Inside the O’Briens, about a family coping with Huntington’s Disease, was published this spring and is also a New York Times bestseller.

As author Laura Lippman observed, “Lisa Genova has essentially created her own genre … in which complicated topics become accessible to readers through beautifully drawn characters and profound, human-scale stories.”

Lisa GenovaLisa Genova, who earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Harvard University, wrote the bestselling Still Alice, her initially self-published book about a 50-year-old linguistics professor diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The book became a major motion picture, released in January 2015. Described as both heartbreaking and inspiring, Still Alice helped to humanize Alzheimer’s, a subject that too many have preferred to avoid.

Her latest book, Inside the O’Briens, about a family coping with Huntington’s Disease, was published this spring and is also a New York Times bestseller.

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As author Laura Lippman observed, “Lisa Genova has essentially created her own genre … in which complicated topics become accessible to readers through beautifully drawn characters and profound, human-scale stories.”

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

"Stories are a way into people’s hearts, and when this happens, we have more than knowledge. We have real understanding, empathy, sensitivity, the ability to be better caregivers and maybe the motivation to get involved." - Lisa Genova

Kathy Greenlee

Money & Security

Kathy Greenlee

As both the assistant secretary for aging at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and administrator of the Administration for Community Living (ACL), Kathy Greenlee has made elder justice a key priority for the Obama Administration, coordinating interagency efforts to protect older Americans from elder fraud.

Among her efforts, Greenlee has been developing a data collection tool to amass information from states about their efforts to curb elder abuse and to develop a system of voluntary national Adult Protective Services guidelines.  

She also worked to elevate the concerns of LGBT seniors who face discrimination in housing and access to services, and oversaw the establishment of the ACL to incorporate the long-term care and service needs of people with disabilities along with older adults.

Note: The Administration on Aging, under ACL, is a Next Avenue content partner. 

Kathy GreenleeAs both the assistant secretary for aging at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and administrator of the Administration for Community Living (ACL), Kathy Greenlee has made elder justice a key priority for the Obama Administration, coordinating interagency efforts to protect older Americans from elder fraud.

Among her efforts, Greenlee has been developing a data collection tool to amass information from states about their efforts to curb elder abuse and to develop a system of voluntary national Adult Protective Services guidelines.  

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She also worked to elevate the concerns of LGBT seniors who face discrimination in housing and access to services, and oversaw the establishment of the ACL to incorporate the long-term care and service needs of people with disabilities along with older adults.

Note: The Administration on Aging, under ACL, is a Next Avenue content partner. 

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

"Old age should be a destiny that unites us, not a concept or number that sets us apart." - Kathy Greenlee

Jennie Chin Hansen

Health & Well-Being

Jennie Chin Hansen

Former American Geriatrics Society (AGS) Chief Executive Officer Jennie Chin Hansen was honored by the organization earlier this year for raising the profile and quality of older adult care, shortly before stepping down from her post.

Before joining AGS, Hansen served as president of AARP for two years. It was a period that saw some of the most heated national discussion on health care reform.

Her past experience also includes nearly 25 years with On Lok Senior Health Services in San Francisco (11 as CEO). On Lok became the model for the nation’s Medicare- and Medicaid-funded Programs of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), which are now in more than 30 states. The goal of PACE is to provide medical and supportive services for chronically ill seniors so they can remain in their homes for as long as possible.

She continues to serve on a number of boards and advisory committees.  

Jennie Chin HansenFormer American Geriatrics Society (AGS) Chief Executive Officer Jennie Chin Hansen was honored by the organization earlier this year for raising the profile and quality of older adult care, shortly before stepping down from her post.

Before joining AGS, Hansen served as president of AARP for two years. It was a period that saw some of the most heated national discussion on health care reform.

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Her past experience also includes nearly 25 years with On Lok Senior Health Services in San Francisco (11 as CEO). On Lok became the model for the nation’s Medicare- and Medicaid-funded Programs of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), which are now in more than 30 states. The goal of PACE is to provide medical and supportive services for chronically ill seniors so they can remain in their homes for as long as possible.

She continues to serve on a number of boards and advisory committees.  

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

"Advance 'aging as a normal process of life and living' — to live vibrantly, contribute and be capable of activating our resilience as issues arise." - Jennie Chin Hansen

Rodney Harrell

Living & Learning

Rodney Harrell

Livable communities are safe, support even their oldest citizens and offer both accessible transit and affordable housing. Rodney Harrell, AARP’s director of livable communities, is a long-time leader in the field. He’s charged with exploring how such communities can become the norm across the country, researching both innovations for making them work and broader policy questions that will allow them to flourish.

Harrell’s mission is to allow older people to remain independent and engaged with the world around them. As the “silver tsunami” approaches, the need for affordable housing in livable communities will only grow more acute — making Harrell a valuable national resource.

 

Rodney HarrellLivable communities are safe, support even their oldest citizens and offer both accessible transit and affordable housing. Rodney Harrell, AARP’s director of livable communities, is a long-time leader in the field. He’s charged with exploring how such communities can become the norm across the country, researching both innovations for making them work and broader policy questions that will allow them to flourish.

Harrell’s mission is to allow older people to remain independent and engaged with the world around them. As the “silver tsunami” approaches, the need for affordable housing in livable communities will only grow more acute — making Harrell a valuable national resource.

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If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

"Ideally, all of us would plan for our future needs, and our communities would plan for people of all ages, abilities, incomes and backgrounds." - Rodney Harrell

Carrie Hessler Radelet

Work & Purpose

Carrie Hessler-Radelet

The director of the U.S. Peace Corps, Carrie Hessler-Radelet is on a tear to attract Peace Corps volunteers age 50 and older. She told Next Avenue that she hoped to increase the percentage of 50+ Peace Corps volunteers from 8 percent to more like 15 percent. Among the enticements: a revamped, simpler and quicker Peace Corps application process, which has led to a 46 percent increase in older applicants. Also, seasoned professionals can now apply for a shorter-than-normal tour through the Peace Corps Response program — service of three months to a year rather than the standard 27 months. More than a third of the program’s applicants are 50 and older.

Hessler-Radelet is the fourth member of her family to volunteer for the Peace Corps; she taught English in Western Samoa at age 24. In between her Peace Corps stints, she was vice president and director of the Washington, D.C., office of the global public-health organization, John Snow, and helped establish the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

Carrie Hessler RadeletThe director of the U.S. Peace Corps, Carrie Hessler-Radelet is on a tear to attract Peace Corps volunteers age 50 and older. She told Next Avenue that she hoped to increase the percentage of 50+ Peace Corps volunteers from 8 percent to more like 15 percent. Among the enticements: a revamped, simpler and quicker Peace Corps application process, which has led to a 46 percent increase in older applicants. Also, seasoned professionals can now apply for a shorter-than-normal tour through the Peace Corps Response program — service of three months to a year rather than the standard 27 months. More than a third of the program’s applicants are 50 and older.

Hessler-Radelet is the fourth member of her family to volunteer for the Peace Corps; she taught English in Western Samoa at age 24. In between her Peace Corps stints, she was vice president and director of the Washington, D.C., office of the global public-health organization, John Snow, and helped establish the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

"If I could, I would change the perception that getting older means doing less. And that older Americans have less to give.” - Carrie Hessler-Radelet

Cindy Hounsell

Money & Security

Cindy Hounsell

The founder and president of the nonprofit group WISER (Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement), Cindy Hounsell helps improve the opportunities for women to secure retirement income and to educate the public about the inequities that disadvantage women in retirement. Hounsell is an attorney who has testified before Congress and offered training as director of the National Resource Center for Women and Retirement Planning, funded by the U.S. Administration on Aging.

Hounsell was appointed by the Obama administration to the federal ERISA Advisory Council on retirement and by the George W. Bush administration to the Advisory Panel on Medicare Education. In 2012, Money magazine called Hounsell one of its 40 “Money Heroes” who have made extraordinary efforts to improve the financial well-being of others.

Note: WISER is a Next Avenue content partner. 

Cindy HounsellThe founder and president of the nonprofit group WISER (Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement), Cindy Hounsell helps improve the opportunities for women to secure retirement income and to educate the public about the inequities that disadvantage women in retirement. Hounsell is an attorney who has testified before Congress and offered training as director of the National Resource Center for Women and Retirement Planning, funded by the U.S. Administration on Aging.

Hounsell was appointed by the Obama administration to the federal ERISA Advisory Council on retirement and by the George W. Bush administration to the Advisory Panel on Medicare Education. In 2012, Money magazine called Hounsell one of its 40 “Money Heroes” who have made extraordinary efforts to improve the financial well-being of others.

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Note: WISER is a Next Avenue content partner. 

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

"Reduce high poverty rates among older women (many are penalized for family caregiving) and increase economic security for women of all ages." - Cindy Hounsell

Cynthia Hutchins

Money & Security

Cynthia Hutchins

Director of Financial Gerontology for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Cynthia (Cyndi) Hutchins was appointed the first gerontologist at a major financial services firm in 2014. In this position, she works with its 14,000 advisers to help them understand and counsel their boomer clients about issues concerning aging and finances, such as elder care, Social Security and longevity.

Hutchins is publishing a series of White Papers about aging for Merrill Lynch advisers and developing financial guides and interactive resources for their clients. Before taking this job, Hutchins spent 20 years as a financial adviser, including 15 at Merrill Lynch as a wealth manager and retirement specialist. Hutchins has a master’s degree in gerontology from University of Southern California.

Cynthia HutchinsDirector of Financial Gerontology for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Cynthia (Cyndi) Hutchins was appointed the first gerontologist at a major financial services firm in 2014. In this position, she works with its 14,000 advisers to help them understand and counsel their boomer clients about issues concerning aging and finances, such as elder care, Social Security and longevity.

Hutchins is publishing a series of White Papers about aging for Merrill Lynch advisers and developing financial guides and interactive resources for their clients. Before taking this job, Hutchins spent 20 years as a financial adviser, including 15 at Merrill Lynch as a wealth manager and retirement specialist. Hutchins has a master’s degree in gerontology from University of Southern California.

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

"I never want to hear people say, 'I am too old for that.' You are never too old to learn new things, explore your passions or pursue new opportunities." - Cynthia Hutchins

J. Mark Iwry

Money & Security

J. Mark Iwry

Senior adviser to the Secretary of the Treasury and deputy assistant secretary (tax policy) for retirement and health policy at the U.S. Treasury Department, J. Mark Iwry is the chief behind-the-scenes person for retirement policy in the Obama administration. He spearheaded the administration’s myRA initiative to extend retirement plan coverage to Americans and was a principal architect of both the Saver’s Tax Credit for low-income workers and the SIMPLE 401(k) plan for small business employees. Previously, Iwry directed the Treasury Department’s strategy to increase retirement savings through 401(k) automatic enrollment and by allowing the Internal Revenue Service to deposit tax refunds directly into Individual Retirement Accounts.

The son of a Dead Sea Scroll scholarhe was the Treasury Department’s benefits tax counsel, a partner in the Covington & Burling law firm, nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank, a research professor at Georgetown University and of counsel to the Sullivan & Cromwell law firm. A former adviser to many presidential campaigns, Iwry was named one of the “30 top financial players” by Smart Money magazine. He co-edited Aging Gracefully: Ideas to Improve Retirement Security in America.

J. Mark IwrySenior adviser to the Secretary of the Treasury and deputy assistant secretary (tax policy) for retirement and health policy at the U.S. Treasury Department, J. Mark Iwry is the chief behind-the-scenes person for retirement policy in the Obama administration. He spearheaded the administration’s myRA initiative to extend retirement plan coverage to Americans and was a principal architect of both the Saver’s Tax Credit for low-income workers and the SIMPLE 401(k) plan for small business employees. Previously, Iwry directed the Treasury Department’s strategy to increase retirement savings through 401(k) automatic enrollment and by allowing the Internal Revenue Service to deposit tax refunds directly into Individual Retirement Accounts.

The son of a Dead Sea Scroll scholarhe was the Treasury Department’s benefits tax counsel, a partner in the Covington & Burling law firm, nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank, a research professor at Georgetown University and of counsel to the Sullivan & Cromwell law firm. A former adviser to many presidential campaigns, Iwry was named one of the “30 top financial players” by Smart Money magazine. He co-edited Aging Gracefully: Ideas to Improve Retirement Security in America.

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

"We need to do much more as a nation to enhance retirement security for American households and to make it easier for working people to save." - J. Mark Iwry

Ina Jaffe

Living & Learning

Ina Jaffe

Ina Jaffe, a veteran political and arts reporter, created a new aging beat for National Public Radio to cover stories that matter most to older adults.

Since 2012, Jaffe has applied her sharp reporting and storytelling skills to examine a raft of issues affecting older Americans on a national and personal scale. In recent months, she has reported on how food in nursing homes is changing from mush to gourmet fare and tackled the uncomfortable question of whether those with dementia can consent to sex

In telling the stories of people who are reinventing themselves as they age, Jaffe has reinvented reporting on aging.

Ina JaffeIna Jaffe, a veteran political and arts reporter, created a new aging beat for National Public Radio to cover stories that matter most to older adults.

Since 2012, Jaffe has applied her sharp reporting and storytelling skills to examine a raft of issues affecting older Americans on a national and personal scale. In recent months, she has reported on how food in nursing homes is changing from mush to gourmet fare and tackled the uncomfortable question of whether those with dementia can consent to sex

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In telling the stories of people who are reinventing themselves as they age, Jaffe has reinvented reporting on aging.

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

"Too many in the U.S. see aging as decline, disability and loss. Aging is a gift. It should be celebrated and embraced by young and old together." - Ina Jaffe

Cynthia Kenyon

Health & Well-Being

Cynthia Kenyon

Cynthia Kenyon discovered through research that she could manipulate just one gene in roundworms that doubled their lifespan. She believes that the same principles can be applied to humans, and that aging can be slowed. After 28 years as a professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco, she joined Google startup Calico in 2014 as vice president of aging research.

The roundworm research, conducted at UCSF, “sparked an intensive study of the molecular biology of aging,” UCSF said in its online profile of Kenyon. In turn, those findings paved the way to a discovery that a similar process may take place in humans.

A member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine, Kenyon received her Ph.D. from MIT and worked with Nobel laureate Sydney Brenner as a postdoctoral fellow in Cambridge, England. The National Institutes of Health called her research “enthralling,” and in July, Business Insider named her one of the “15 most amazing women in science today.”

Cynthia KenyonCynthia Kenyon discovered through research that she could manipulate just one gene in roundworms that doubled their lifespan. She believes that the same principles can be applied to humans, and that aging can be slowed. After 28 years as a professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco, she joined Google startup Calico in 2014 as vice president of aging research.

The roundworm research, conducted at UCSF, “sparked an intensive study of the molecular biology of aging,” UCSF said in its online profile of Kenyon. In turn, those findings paved the way to a discovery that a similar process may take place in humans.

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A member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine, Kenyon received her Ph.D. from MIT and worked with Nobel laureate Sydney Brenner as a postdoctoral fellow in Cambridge, England. The National Institutes of Health called her research “enthralling,” and in July, Business Insider named her one of the “15 most amazing women in science today.”

Cynthia Kenyon explaining her experiments on the lifespan of worms at TEDGlobal 2011

"I think it won't be too long, I hope, before this age-old dream (of extending the human lifespan) begins to come true." - Cynthia Kenyon

Laurence Kotlikoff

Money & Security

Laurence J. Kotlikoff

Perhaps the nation’s leading independent expert on Social Security’s arcane rules, Laurence (Larry) Kotlikoff has been instrumental in helping Americans plan for retirement through his plain-English writing about claiming Social Security benefits.

An economics professor at Boston University, he is co-author of the bestseller, Get What’s Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security, and a regular contributor to PBS NewsHour.org. Kotlikoff has also developed the well-respected ESPlanner retirement planning software through his company Economic Security Planning and is an authority on generational economics.

Note: Laurence Kotlikoff’s articles appear occasionally on Next Avenue via PBS NewsHour. 

Laurence KotlikoffPerhaps the nation’s leading independent expert on Social Security’s arcane rules, Laurence (Larry) Kotlikoff has been instrumental in helping Americans plan for retirement through his plain-English writing about claiming Social Security benefits.

An economics professor at Boston University, he is co-author of the bestseller, Get What’s Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security, and a regular contributor to PBS NewsHour.org. Kotlikoff has also developed the well-respected ESPlanner retirement planning software through his company Economic Security Planning and is an authority on generational economics.

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Note: Laurence Kotlikoff’s articles appear occasionally on Next Avenue via PBS NewsHour. 

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

"I'd knock our heads together re the longevity risk.  We all need to work longer, save like crazy, maximize our Social Security benefits, own our homes, do Upside Investing (treat risky investing like casino gambling) and keep physically and mentally active. " - Laurence J. Kotlikoff

Joanne Lynn

Health & Well-Being

Dr. Joanne Lynn

Advocating for frail elders and ensuring that they have meaning and comfort in their lives has been a primary focus of Dr. Joanne Lynn’s career. She doesn’t mince words when describing the current health care system in the United States, writing in a recent article, “The litany of catastrophes that occur in our poorly organized medical care system — preventable, avoidable suffering — is overwhelming. So far, though … no one is changing the system to stop these errors.”

A geriatrician and hospice physician, Lynn directs the Center on Elder Care and Advanced Illness for the Altarum Institute, a nonprofit research and consulting group. She has been a consultant to the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a senior researcher at RAND and a professor of Medicine and Community Health at Dartmouth Medical School and The George Washington University.

Lynn has published more than 250 professional articles and a dozen books. She has also authored amicus briefs on important appellate court cases.

Joanne LynnAdvocating for frail elders and ensuring that they have meaning and comfort in their lives has been a primary focus of Dr. Joanne Lynn’s career. She doesn’t mince words when describing the current health care system in the United States, writing in a recent article, “The litany of catastrophes that occur in our poorly organized medical care system — preventable, avoidable suffering — is overwhelming. So far, though … no one is changing the system to stop these errors.”

A geriatrician and hospice physician, Lynn directs the Center on Elder Care and Advanced Illness for the Altarum Institute, a nonprofit research and consulting group. She has been a consultant to the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a senior researcher at RAND and a professor of Medicine and Community Health at Dartmouth Medical School and The George Washington University.

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Lynn has published more than 250 professional articles and a dozen books. She has also authored amicus briefs on important appellate court cases.

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

"We should tell many stories to find the words and images and test novel ways to make aging comfortable and meaningful at sustainable costs." - Dr. Joanne Lynn

Kevin Mahoney

Health & Well-Being

Kevin J. Mahoney

A gerontologist and 16-year faculty member of the Boston College Graduate School of Social Work, Kevin Mahoney has won national attention for his research on self-directed services for people with disabilities.

Mahoney serves as director of the National Resource Center for Participant-Directed Services at Boston College, which helps governments and agencies promote independence for older adults and people with disabilities by assisting them in deciding for themselves what types of support they need. The center’s mission is to “infuse participant-directed options in all home and community-based services,” according to its website.

Mahoney has also held policy-making and administrative positions in state governments and universities, including positions in the states of Connecticut and California, and appointments at the University of California, San Francisco and the University of Maryland.

Kevin MahoneyA gerontologist and 16-year faculty member of the Boston College Graduate School of Social Work, Kevin Mahoney has won national attention for his research on self-directed services for people with disabilities.

Mahoney serves as director of the National Resource Center for Participant-Directed Services at Boston College, which helps governments and agencies promote independence for older adults and people with disabilities by assisting them in deciding for themselves what types of support they need. The center’s mission is to “infuse participant-directed options in all home and community-based services,” according to its website.

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Mahoney has also held policy-making and administrative positions in state governments and universities, including positions in the states of Connecticut and California, and appointments at the University of California, San Francisco and the University of Maryland.

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

"I would want all Americans to know that, should they at any point in their lives need help with major activities of daily living, like bathing, dressing or getting out of bed, there would be options in place so they could easily access the supports and services they needed, in the way they preferred, without bankrupting themselves or their families." - Kevin J. Mahoney

Bruce Miller

Health & Well-Being

Dr. Bruce Miller

The director of the University of California, San Francisco Memory and Aging Center,  Dr. Bruce Miller, a behavioral neurologist, studies brain and behavior relationships as well as the genetic underpinnings of disease.

He is distinguished for his work in frontotemporal dementia (FTD), emphasizing the behavioral and emotional impacts on these patients, while noting the visual creativity that can emerge.

Miller also serves as the principal investigator of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at UCSF and for a project on FTD called Frontotemporal Dementia: Genes, Imaging and Emotions, both sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.   

Bruce MillerThe director of the University of California, San Francisco Memory and Aging Center,  Dr. Bruce Miller, a behavioral neurologist, studies brain and behavior relationships as well as the genetic underpinnings of disease.

He is distinguished for his work in frontotemporal dementia (FTD), emphasizing the behavioral and emotional impacts on these patients, while noting the visual creativity that can emerge.

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Miller also serves as the principal investigator of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at UCSF and for a project on FTD called Frontotemporal Dementia: Genes, Imaging and Emotions, both sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.   

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

"I would encourage intergenerational dialogue, with the young seeking the wisdom of elders and elders staying committed to future generations."- Dr. Bruce Miller

Larry Minnix

Caregiving

Larry Minnix

Larry Minnix has spent more than three decades as a national leader and advocate for better elder services, including patient-centered care.

For 15 years, he has served as president and CEO of LeadingAge, formerly the Association of American Homes and Services for the Aging (AAHSA). Recent work in that role has included collaboration with the federal government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on its proposed rule overhauling nursing home requirements. Minnix recently announced his plans to step down from his job by the end of December.

Before joining AAHSA, Minnix worked for 28 years at Wesley Woods, an elder services agency in Atlanta where he started as an intern and ended as CEO. In a recent interview, he encouraged upcoming leaders to “advocate for the right policy for the right reasons and don’t be afraid to speak up about them.”

Note: LeadingAge is a Next Avenue content partner. 

Larry MinnixLarry Minnix has spent more than three decades as a national leader and advocate for better elder services, including patient-centered care.

For 15 years, he has served as president and CEO of LeadingAge, formerly the Association of American Homes and Services for the Aging (AAHSA). Recent work in that role has included collaboration with the federal government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on its proposed rule overhauling nursing home requirements. Minnix recently announced his plans to step down from his job by the end of December.

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Before joining AAHSA, Minnix worked for 28 years at Wesley Woods, an elder services agency in Atlanta where he started as an intern and ended as CEO. In a recent interview, he encouraged upcoming leaders to “advocate for the right policy for the right reasons and don’t be afraid to speak up about them.”

Note: LeadingAge is a Next Avenue content partner. 

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

"Public attitude about aging and older people. Aging has a fulfilling purpose in life. We are healthier as individuals and as a society the better we appreciate that fulfillment. Or, to paraphrase Camus, 'It was winter of life I discovered within me an invincible summer.'" - Larry Minnix

Laura Mosqueda

Caregiving

Dr. Laura Mosqueda

While serving as an associate dean at the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine, Dr. Laura Mosqueda co-founded the nation’s first Elder Abuse Forensic Center. Its goal is improved prosecution of elder abuse cases through cooperation among police, doctors and others who encounter the problem.

Today, Mosqueda serves as co-director of the National Center on Elder Abuse, a federal resource where professionals and the public can go for statistics, reports, and information on signs of abuse and neglect. Last year, she was named chair of the Department of Family Medicine and Professor of Family Medicine and Geriatrics at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. A popular speaker on elder abuse and geriatrics, Mosqueda advocates training for law enforcement, social workers and others who work with the elderly to spot abuse. She also works with Adult Protective Services to help investigate possible cases of abuse or neglect.

“There are people suffering right now whom we can help. That’s why it’s so important for me to still go on house calls with police, to practice medicine and understand what we can be doing today,” she told USC News.

Laura MosquedaWhile serving as an associate dean at the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine, Dr. Laura Mosqueda co-founded the nation’s first Elder Abuse Forensic Center. Its goal is improved prosecution of elder abuse cases through cooperation among police, doctors and others who encounter the problem.

Today, Mosqueda serves as co-director of the National Center on Elder Abuse, a federal resource where professionals and the public can go for statistics, reports, and information on signs of abuse and neglect. Last year, she was named chair of the Department of Family Medicine and Professor of Family Medicine and Geriatrics at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. A popular speaker on elder abuse and geriatrics, Mosqueda advocates training for law enforcement, social workers and others who work with the elderly to spot abuse. She also works with Adult Protective Services to help investigate possible cases of abuse or neglect.

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“There are people suffering right now whom we can help. That’s why it’s so important for me to still go on house calls with police, to practice medicine and understand what we can be doing today,” she told USC News.

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

"Aging Americans need better prevention services, interventions and access to the right kind of health care that helps all people age with dignity, respect and love." - Dr. Laura Mosqueda

Alicia Munnell

Money & Security

Alicia H. Munnell

The outspoken director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, economist Alicia Munnell is one of the nation’s leading authorities on Americans and retirement securityThe Peter F. Drucker Professor of Management Sciences at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management and co-author of Falling Short: The Coming Retirement Crisis and What to Do About ItMunnell’s prescriptions for the nation’s pre-retirees include: working longer and tapping home equity. She also wants employers to be required to provide retirement plan coverage to part-time workers.

Previously, Munnell was a member of President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers, assistant secretary of the treasury for economic affairs and senior vice president and director of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

Note: Alicia Munnell’s articles appear occasionally on Next Avenue via MarketWatch

Alicia MunnellThe outspoken director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, economist Alicia Munnell is one of the nation’s leading authorities on Americans and retirement securityThe Peter F. Drucker Professor of Management Sciences at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management and co-author of Falling Short: The Coming Retirement Crisis and What to Do About ItMunnell’s prescriptions for the nation’s pre-retirees include: working longer and tapping home equity. She also wants employers to be required to provide retirement plan coverage to part-time workers.

Previously, Munnell was a member of President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers, assistant secretary of the treasury for economic affairs and senior vice president and director of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

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Note: Alicia Munnell’s articles appear occasionally on Next Avenue via MarketWatch

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

"Convince people in their 40s that most can work until age 70, which will provide both fulfillment and financial security in retirement." - Alicia H. Munnell

Bernard Osher

Living & Learning

Bernard Osher

Philanthropist and visionary Bernard Osher understands that continual questioning and exposure to new ideas and information promotes personal growth, health and social connections as we age.

Osher, a self-made billionaire, started the Osher Foundation in 1977 with a focus on higher education. In 2001, he began supporting the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute program (OLLI network).It aims to give adults over 50 access to classes and social activities, provided mainly in college settings.

“I would encourage people to actively participate in the affairs of our time, to volunteer their help to those in need, to share their subject-matter expertise and to continue to make their mark,” he told Next Avenue, adding that he took up piano at age 80.

Today, 119 colleges and universities participate in offering courses to older students. Whether OLLI members want to learn to identify trees, study global wisdom or understand the arts of Asia, there’s a class for them. Osher makes it possible for thousands of older students to learn new things for the sheer joy of it.

 

Bernard OsherPhilanthropist and visionary Bernard Osher understands that continual questioning and exposure to new ideas and information promotes personal growth, health and social connections as we age.

Osher, a self-made billionaire, started the Osher Foundation in 1977 with a focus on higher education. In 2001, he began supporting the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute program (OLLI network).It aims to give adults over 50 access to classes and social activities, provided mainly in college settings.

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“I would encourage people to actively participate in the affairs of our time, to volunteer their help to those in need, to share their subject-matter expertise and to continue to make their mark,” he told Next Avenue, adding that he took up piano at age 80.

Today, 119 colleges and universities participate in offering courses to older students. Whether OLLI members want to learn to identify trees, study global wisdom or understand the arts of Asia, there’s a class for them. Osher makes it possible for thousands of older students to learn new things for the sheer joy of it.

 

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

"With the prospect of many more people living to be 100, we should ensure that these ever longer 'golden years' are satisfying and meaningful. The nation will thank older adults if they take steps to remain vigorous as long as possible, living with spirited independence and with dignity." - Bernard Osher

Philip Pizzo

Work & Purpose

Dr. Philip Pizzo

The creator and founding director of The Stanford Distinguished Careers Institute, Dr. Philip Pizzo launched the year-long program to let midlife professionals “transform themselves with social impact at the local, national and global levels.” The Stanford Distinguished Careers Institute partners with the Stanford Center on Longevity and more than three dozen other Stanford interdisciplinary centers, institutes and programs; its first class of fellows graduated recently. 

Pizzo, a pediatric oncologist by training, was dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine from 2001 to 2012 and was a professor of pediatrics, microbiology and immunology there. Among his previous positions: chief of pediatrics at the National Cancer Institute and chair of the Department of Medicine at Children’s Hospital in Boston.

Philip PizzoThe creator and founding director of The Stanford Distinguished Careers Institute, Dr. Philip Pizzo launched the year-long program to let midlife professionals “transform themselves with social impact at the local, national and global levels.” The Stanford Distinguished Careers Institute partners with the Stanford Center on Longevity and more than three dozen other Stanford interdisciplinary centers, institutes and programs; its first class of fellows graduated recently. 

Pizzo, a pediatric oncologist by training, was dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine from 2001 to 2012 and was a professor of pediatrics, microbiology and immunology there. Among his previous positions: chief of pediatrics at the National Cancer Institute and chair of the Department of Medicine at Children’s Hospital in Boston.

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

"Use higher education to give individuals in midlife a renewed purpose, along with community building and a recalibration of wellness so that they can improve the world." - Dr. Philip Pizzo

Ai Jen Poo

Caregiving

Ai-jen Poo

In her recent bestseller, The Age of Dignity: Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changing America, labor activist Ai-jen Poo argues for putting a higher premium on caregiving and improving the prospects for those who provide paid care.

While home care is one of the fastest growing occupations, it is not keeping pace with the need — with more than 10,000 Americans turning 65 each day. America’s 3 million paid caregivers often work long hours for low pay with few benefits and protections for their own families.

Poo has been instrumental in persuading the U.S. Labor Department to extend wage and overtime protections to domestic workers. Through the Caring Across Generations campaign, she is bringing together older adults and professional caregivers to promote shared policy interests. She is a MacArthur Fellow and Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

Ai Jen PooIn her recent bestseller, The Age of Dignity: Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changing America, labor activist Ai-jen Poo argues for putting a higher premium on caregiving and improving the prospects for those who provide paid care.

While home care is one of the fastest growing occupations, it is not keeping pace with the need — with more than 10,000 Americans turning 65 each day. America’s 3 million paid caregivers often work long hours for low pay with few benefits and protections for their own families.

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Poo has been instrumental in persuading the U.S. Labor Department to extend wage and overtime protections to domestic workers. Through the Caring Across Generations campaign, she is bringing together older adults and professional caregivers to promote shared policy interests. She is a MacArthur Fellow and Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

What would you change about aging in America if you could?

"I would create a system to support family and professional caregivers so our elders and all who care for them can live well, with dignity." - Ai-Jen Poo

Lauren Stiller Rikleen

Work & Purpose

Lauren Stiller Rikleen

President of the Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership and a visiting scholar at the Boston College Center for Work & Family, Lauren Stiller Rikleen  is one of the nation’s foremost authorities on the multi-generational workforce and happens to be the mom of two MillennialsHer recent book, You Raised Us, Now Work With Us: Millennials, Career Success, and Building Strong Workplace Teamsbrilliantly describes the contradictions between boomers as parents to Millennials and as their work managers and colleagues.

A former lawyer who appeared in Best Lawyers in America for two decades, Rikleen previously managed an environmental law practice and is an experienced mediator. She has also received numerous awards for her work as a mentor.

Note:  Lauren Stiller Rikleen is an occasional contributor for Next Avenue . 

Lauren Stiller RikleenPresident of the Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership and a visiting scholar at the Boston College Center for Work & Family, Lauren Stiller Rikleen  is one of the nation’s foremost authorities on the multi-generational workforce and happens to be the mom of two MillennialsHer recent book, You Raised Us, Now Work With Us: Millennials, Career Success, and Building Strong Workplace Teamsbrilliantly describes the contradictions between boomers as parents to Millennials and as their work managers and colleagues.

A former lawyer who appeared in Best Lawyers in America for two decades, Rikleen previously managed an environmental law practice and is an experienced mediator. She has also received numerous awards for her work as a mentor.

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Note:  Lauren Stiller Rikleen is an occasional contributor for Next Avenue . 

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

"I would eliminate the stereotyped lens through which generations view each other, which would strengthen mutual respect and reduce barriers."- Lauren Stiller Rikleen

Ofer Sharone

Work & Purpose

Ofer Sharone

An assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst, Ofer Sharone is a leading researcher on career transitions, job searching and unemployment. For his book, Flawed System Flawed Self: Job Searching and Unemployment Experiences, Sharone interviewed more than 170 white-collar job seekers in the U.S. and Israel and found that many unemployed workers feel they are “flawed” and that something is wrong with them. Sharone believes that some of the advice offered by job-support organizations and books exacerbates this vulnerability to self-blame

Sharone and other scholars have begun the Institute for Career Transitions, a nonprofit aimed at generating effective strategies, offering practical support and increasing public understanding of challenges facing professionals in career transition.

Ofer SharoneAn assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst, Ofer Sharone is a leading researcher on career transitions, job searching and unemployment. For his book, Flawed System Flawed Self: Job Searching and Unemployment Experiences, Sharone interviewed more than 170 white-collar job seekers in the U.S. and Israel and found that many unemployed workers feel they are “flawed” and that something is wrong with them. Sharone believes that some of the advice offered by job-support organizations and books exacerbates this vulnerability to self-blame

Sharone and other scholars have begun the Institute for Career Transitions, a nonprofit aimed at generating effective strategies, offering practical support and increasing public understanding of challenges facing professionals in career transition.

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

"Lift the blinders of age discrimination and tap the deep wisdom and rich experience of older workers for meaningful and sustaining career opportunities." - Ofer Sharone

Maria Shriver

Caregiving

Maria Shriver

As a network news correspondent and anchor for CBS and NBC, and later as California’s First Lady, Maria Shriver is accustomed to being in the public eye. She has leveraged her celebrity to advocate for change in the lives of America’s women, notably in the areas of unpaid caregiving and Alzheimer’s disease. In 2010, she partnered with the Alzheimer’s Association to publish The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Takes on Alzheimer’s. It was the largest study ever to examine the impact of Alzheimer’s disease on women, who make up the majority of patients and caregivers. 
 
Shriver, whose late father Sargent Shriver had Alzheimer’s, was an executive producer for HBO’s Alzheimer’s Project and appears in a moving segment on how to explain the disease to grandchildren. Shriver also produced the Oscar-winning Still Alice, a feature film about early-onset Alzheimer’s, and founded the Wipe Out Alzheimer’s challenge, funding research on women’s brains, which are disproportionally affected by the disease. 
As a network news correspondent and anchor for CBS and NBC, and later as California’s First Lady, Maria Shriver is accustomed to being in the public eye. She has leveraged her celebrity to advocate for change in the lives of America’s women, notably in the areas of unpaid caregiving and Alzheimer’s disease. In 2010, she partnered with the Alzheimer’s Association to publish The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Takes on Alzheimer’s. It was the largest study ever to examine the impact of Alzheimer’s disease on women, who make up the majority of patients and caregivers. 
 
Shriver, whose late father Sargent Shriver had Alzheimer’s, was an executive producer for HBO’s Alzheimer’s Project and appears in a moving segment on how to explain the disease to grandchildren. Shriver also produced the Oscar-winning Still Alice, a feature film about early-onset Alzheimer’s, and founded the Wipe Out Alzheimer’s challenge, funding research on women’s brains, which are disproportionally affected by the disease. 

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

“That people would respect it.” - Maria Shriver

Felipe Sierra

Health & Well-Being

Felipe Sierra

As director of the Division of Aging Biology at the National Institute on Aging since April 2006, Felipe Sierra studies the science of aging and has helped lead the charge for more research in the field.

Sierra is also the founder and coordinator of the trans-National Institutes of Health (NIH) Geroscience Interest Group. It explores why aging is the major risk factor in most chronic age-related diseases, including Alzheimer’s, heart disease and cancer.

In 2013 and 2014, Sierra received NIH Director’s Awards for that effort.

A biochemist by training, he developed an interest in the biology of aging and previously worked as an assistant professor at the Medical College of Pennsylvania and an associate professor at the Lankenau Institute for Medical Research in suburban Philadelphia.

Note: The National Institute on Aging is a Next Avenue content partner. 

Felipe SierraAs director of the Division of Aging Biology at the National Institute on Aging since April 2006, Felipe Sierra studies the science of aging and has helped lead the charge for more research in the field.

Sierra is also the founder and coordinator of the trans-National Institutes of Health (NIH) Geroscience Interest Group. It explores why aging is the major risk factor in most chronic age-related diseases, including Alzheimer’s, heart disease and cancer.

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In 2013 and 2014, Sierra received NIH Director’s Awards for that effort.

A biochemist by training, he developed an interest in the biology of aging and previously worked as an assistant professor at the Medical College of Pennsylvania and an associate professor at the Lankenau Institute for Medical Research in suburban Philadelphia.

Note: The National Institute on Aging is a Next Avenue content partner. 

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

"Emphasize funding and research on chronic diseases of the elderly, away from disease management and into prevention, by addressing common factors in aging biology." - Felipe Sierra

Ken Smith

Health & Well-Being

Ken Smith

Ken Smith calls upon his 20 years in management and engineering experience, including roles in computing, aerospace and solar energy, in his current position as senior research scholar and director of the Mobility Division at the Stanford Center on Longevity.

Notably, Smith is the organizer of the longevity center’s annual Design Challenge. Now in its third year, the contest poses a unique charge for young college students worldwide: come up with new products, services or tools that help people live better as they age. The winners receive prizes, assistance from mentors and a trip to Silicon Valley.

The challenge for the 2015-2016 year is “Using Happiness to Optimize Longevity.” Mobility will be one of the three challenge tracks students may choose.

Students’ ideas, Smith has said, “aren’t contaminated by old ways of thinking.”

Ken SmithKen Smith calls upon his 20 years in management and engineering experience, including roles in computing, aerospace and solar energy, in his current position as senior research scholar and director of the Mobility Division at the Stanford Center on Longevity.

Notably, Smith is the organizer of the longevity center’s annual Design Challenge. Now in its third year, the contest poses a unique charge for young college students worldwide: come up with new products, services or tools that help people live better as they age. The winners receive prizes, assistance from mentors and a trip to Silicon Valley.

<Read More >

The challenge for the 2015-2016 year is “Using Happiness to Optimize Longevity.” Mobility will be one of the three challenge tracks students may choose.

Students’ ideas, Smith has said, “aren’t contaminated by old ways of thinking.”

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

"Older people would once again become members of mainstream society and not a group apart." - Ken Smith

Lester Strong

Work & Purpose

Lester Strong

The chief executive officer of AARP Experience Corps and an AARP vice president, Lester Strong leads an impressive program of adults 50 and older tutoring children in disadvantaged public schools, from kindergarten through third grade, who are struggling to read. AARP Experience Corps, which began in the 1990s, is widely regarded as one of the nation’s top service programs; 93 percent of teachers surveyed said their students’ reading and literary performance improved under the guidance of AARP Experience Corps. Currently, roughly 1,700 AARP Experience Corps volunteers assist more than 27,000 students. The program enjoys an 85 percent retention rate among its volunteers.

Strong, who serves on the board of Encore.org, has been at the helm of AARP Experience Corps since 1995. Previously, he was chief development officer for the BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) Foundation, tutoring and mentoring underserved children, as well as a television executive, public affairs show host, news anchor and reporter.

Lester StrongThe chief executive officer of AARP Experience Corps and an AARP vice president, Lester Strong leads an impressive program of adults 50 and older tutoring children in disadvantaged public schools, from kindergarten through third grade, who are struggling to read. AARP Experience Corps, which began in the 1990s, is widely regarded as one of the nation’s top service programs; 93 percent of teachers surveyed said their students’ reading and literary performance improved under the guidance of AARP Experience Corps. Currently, roughly 1,700 AARP Experience Corps volunteers assist more than 27,000 students. The program enjoys an 85 percent retention rate among its volunteers.

Strong, who serves on the board of Encore.org, has been at the helm of AARP Experience Corps since 1995. Previously, he was chief development officer for the BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) Foundation, tutoring and mentoring underserved children, as well as a television executive, public affairs show host, news anchor and reporter.

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

"Offering community service would be the norm around the world rather than an exception." - Lester Strong

Nora Super

Health & Well-Being

Nora Super

After 20 years of working in and with government on health policy issues, Nora Super was tapped to lead the 2015 White House Conference on Aging.

With a limited budget — a fraction of what was provided to previous organizers — Super organized regional forums and employed the latest online tools to ask older Americans and their advocates what is needed improve the health, financial security and care for all of us as we age. On July 13, the events culminated in a day-long meeting of experts and leaders hosted by President Obama and members of his administration to discuss policy ideas and highlight successful private programs.

Prior to that monumental effort, Super served in communications and public outreach in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). She previously directed federal government relations for health and long-term care at AARP.

Nora SuperAfter 20 years of working in and with government on health policy issues, Nora Super was tapped to lead the 2015 White House Conference on Aging.

With a limited budget — a fraction of what was provided to previous organizers — Super organized regional forums and employed the latest online tools to ask older Americans and their advocates what is needed improve the health, financial security and care for all of us as we age. On July 13, the events culminated in a day-long meeting of experts and leaders hosted by President Obama and members of his administration to discuss policy ideas and highlight successful private programs.

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Prior to that monumental effort, Super served in communications and public outreach in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). She previously directed federal government relations for health and long-term care at AARP.

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

"Changing the attitude about getting older to one of opportunity, not burden — to embrace wisdom and experience as something to be celebrated." - Nora Super

Aging50_Honoree_Bill_Thomas_HeadShot

Caregiving

Dr. Bill Thomas

Founder of The Green House Project

Dr. Bill Thomas believes “everything we think we know about aging is wrong.” His work in a nursing home inspired him to challenge the status quo about how we treat our elderly, and he founded the website ChangingAging.org as a platform for innovators to share their ideas.

Thomas’s achievements include an effort to revolutionize long-term care by creating the Green House Project, a home-like alternative to nursing homes and retirement communities. His work was featured in a 2014 documentary, Homes on the Range, on efforts to bring the Green House movement to a small town in Wyoming.

Following his 2014 book tour for Second Wind: Navigating the Passage to a Slower, Deeper, and More Connected Life, Thomas is now visiting cities around the country with a theater production called Age of Disruption Tour, in which he urges us to challenge ageist stereotypes.

Aging50_Honoree_Bill_Thomas_HeadShotDr. Bill Thomas believes “everything we think we know about aging is wrong.” His work in a nursing home inspired him to challenge the status quo about how we treat our elderly, and he founded the website ChangingAging.org as a platform for innovators to share their ideas.

Thomas’s achievements include an effort to revolutionize long-term care by creating the Green House Project, a home-like alternative to nursing homes and retirement communities. His work was featured in a 2014 documentary, Homes on the Range, on efforts to bring the Green House movement to a small town in Wyoming.

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Following his 2014 book tour for Second Wind: Navigating the Passage to a Slower, Deeper, and More Connected Life, Thomas is now visiting cities around the country with a theater production called Age of Disruption Tour, in which he urges us to challenge ageist stereotypes.

What would you change about aging in America if you could?

"We're taught that aging is all about decline. In truth, it's all about change. We taste the sweetness of aging when we choose its meaning." - Dr. Bill Thomas

Barbara Vacarr

Work & Purpose

Barbara Vacarr

Director of the Encore Higher Education Initiative at Encore.org, Barbara Vacarr is spearheading a campaign to get America’s colleges and universities to better serve students in midlife or beyond. The former president of Goddard College, she has spent a career developing programs for adult and non-traditional learners.

In March, Vacarr’s initiative convened The EncoreU Summit for Higher Education Leaders to discuss policies, practices and pathways to support the transitions of people who want to continue to work and contribute in meaningful ways. Its next step: a Presidents Summit, where college and university presidents would gather and commit to an age-friendly “declaration pledge.”

Note: Encore.org is a Next Avenue content partner. 

Barbara VacarrDirector of the Encore Higher Education Initiative at Encore.org, Barbara Vacarr is spearheading a campaign to get America’s colleges and universities to better serve students in midlife or beyond. The former president of Goddard College, she has spent a career developing programs for adult and non-traditional learners.

In March, Vacarr’s initiative convened The EncoreU Summit for Higher Education Leaders to discuss policies, practices and pathways to support the transitions of people who want to continue to work and contribute in meaningful ways. Its next step: a Presidents Summit, where college and university presidents would gather and commit to an age-friendly “declaration pledge.”

<Read More >

Note: Encore.org is a Next Avenue content partner. 

If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be?

"Life experience will be understood as a source of creativity and intellectual strength, connecting living, learning and legacy." - Barbara Vacarr