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2019 Influencers in Aging

How We Chose the 2019 Influencers in Aging

Here's the work that went into selecting this year's 12 honorees

By The Editors
September 24, 2019

We take the process of selecting our annual Influencers in Aging very seriously because we know our list is an important one. Our goal is to name a dozen groundbreakers who, in the past year, have helped transform attitudes about aging, presented innovative insights and research and opened up new possibilities for all of us. It’s exciting, and it takes a lot of effort.

Influencers in Aging
Members of the Next Avenue team in the St. Paul, Minn., office and remotely  |  Credit: Elle Moulin

The process for choosing the Influencers in Aging representing thought leaders in our six channels — Health, Caregiving, Money, Work & Purpose, Living and Technology — is a deliberative, enlightening and sometimes contentious one.

Here’s how we arrived at the 2019 Influencers in Aging list:

Since we’re now in our fifth year publishing Influencers in Aging, and have 162 past recipients (early lists had 50 Influencers), we began by looking back at our previous winners. That helped us review how the world of aging has been changing.

Key to the 2019 Influencers in Aging List: Diversity and Inclusion

As we began thinking of the kinds of candidates we’d want as 2019 Influencers in Aging, we committed ourselves to be certain the list reflected our growing priority on diversity and inclusion. Contenders could be people of any age, living anywhere in the world and representing a spectrum of race and ethnicity, sexuality and gender identity, cultural identity, geographic location and points of view.

Since we, the Next Avenue editors, can't possibly know everything about the fields we cover, we first turned to our readers and the wider public for suggestions of honorees — through open nominations, beginning last spring.

We also wanted to find examples of work that especially improved the lives of older adults over the past year, rather than to honor people based on their cumulative careers.

Since we, the Next Avenue editors, can’t possibly know everything about the fields we cover, we first turned to our readers and the wider public for suggestions of honorees  — through open nominations, beginning last spring.


We invited people to recommend researchers, entrepreneurs, thought leaders, executives, writers, artists, health professionals and everyday people helping to redefine what it means to grow older in America. After receiving nearly 70 public nominations, we reviewed and researched them.

A Spreadsheet That Continued Filling Up

Meantime, we were reviewing our Next Avenue stories from the past 12 months; thinking about current issues in aging and considering impressive people we’d heard at conferences or whose recent books we’d read. And we created a spreadsheet with names of those we thought could be potential Influencers in Aging, along with their achievements. As time went on, that spreadsheet filled up with growing numbers of contenders.

Finally, in the summer, the editors had several spirited conversations about people they considered the strongest Influencers in Aging candidates in their particular areas of expertise.

Ultimately, after several rounds of friendly sparring, the editors narrowed the list down to this year’s 12 who represent the best of the best.

Next Avenue’s editors are excited to honor our 2019 Influencers in Aging: Dr. Louise Aronson; Chip Conley; Larry Curley; Sharon Emek; Keren Etkin; Cindy Gallop; Ronald Long; California Gov. Gavin Newsom; Mary Pipher; Dr. Tia Powell; Sandy Chen Stokes and Imani Woody.

In recognizing the people who are making the biggest impact, we hope to spark conversation, engage in new ideas and motivate others to become involved in the important work of innovating the way we age and think about aging.

The Editors Read More
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