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Meet our 2018 Influencers in Aging

Meet Next Avenue’s 2018 Influencers in Aging. These 12 advocates, researchers, thought leaders, innovators, writers and experts continue to push beyond traditional boundaries and change our understanding of what it means to grow older.

Learn more about this year’s list | View the 2017 listView the 2016 list | View the 2015 list 

The List


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Dominic Campbell
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Dominic Campbell: Inspired to Celebrate Aging

Co-Founder of Creative Aging International

Dominic Campbell is the co-founder of Creative Aging International and an Atlantic Fellow for Equity and Brain Health with the Global Brain Health Initiative. From 2006-2013, he was the director of the Bealtaine Festival in Ireland, an annual national event which celebrates aging.

READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH CAMPBELL.

Dominic Campbell is the co-founder of Creative Aging International and an Atlantic Fellow for Equity and Brain Health with the Global Brain Health Initiative. From 2006-2013, he was the director of the Bealtaine Festival in Ireland, an annual national event which celebrates aging.

READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH CAMPBELL.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"This change you can do now: say loud and proud the true story of your aging, however joyful or difficult. Relational care, good science and ending ageism are all critical but will follow when we change the story. Living longer is a miracle. Narrative shapes perception. So, change the story, change everything. Own your aging."

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Catherine Collinson
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Catherine Collinson: Analyzing Retirement Trends Around the World

CEO and President of the Transamerica Institute and its Center for Retirement Studies

As CEO and president of the nonprofit Transamerica Institute and its Center for Retirement Studies as well as executive director of the Aegon Center for Longevity and Retirement, Catherine Collinson is one of the sharpest retirement researchers in the world. She has been surveying workers and employers about retirement for nearly 20 years, publishing incisive reports that note trends and offer keen advice for employees and employers. Her goal: to help more people have financially secure retirements globally.

A nationally recognized voice on retirement issues, Collinson has testified before Congress about employer-sponsored retirement plans and is a member of the advisory board of the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging. In 2016, the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER) gave Collinson its Hero Award for her work improving retirement security among women.

READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH COLLINSON.

As CEO and president of the nonprofit Transamerica Institute and its Center for Retirement Studies as well as executive director of the Aegon Center for Longevity and Retirement, Catherine Collinson is one of the sharpest retirement researchers in the world. She has been surveying workers and employers about retirement for nearly 20 years, publishing incisive reports that note trends and offer keen advice for employees and employers. Her goal: to help more people have financially secure retirements globally.

A nationally recognized voice on retirement issues, Collinson has testified before Congress about employer-sponsored retirement plans and is a member of the advisory board of the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging. In 2016, the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER) gave Collinson its Hero Award for her work improving retirement security among women.

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READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH COLLINSON.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"Advances in medicine and technology are extending the length and quality of our lives. Unfortunately, outdated societal beliefs threaten our ability to enjoy this extraordinary gift. We must overcome ageism and help people successfully prepare for longer, healthier lives."

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Sara Zeff Geber
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Sara Zeff Geber: Offering Retirement Advice for Solo Agers

Retirement Adviser

With her recent book, Essential Retirement Planning for Solo Agers: A retirement and aging roadmap for single and childless adults, Sara Zeff Geber brought the term “solo agers” into the national vocabulary. By Geber’s definition, a solo ager (sometimes called an “elder orphan”) is a boomer without children and/or grandchildren. Geber, based in Santa Rosa, Calif., is a retirement coach for boomers, a life planning and retirement transition expert, a professional speaker, a workshop leader and a Forbes contributor. She has a Ph.D. in organizational behavior.

READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH GEBER.

With her recent book, Essential Retirement Planning for Solo Agers: A retirement and aging roadmap for single and childless adults, Sara Zeff Geber brought the term “solo agers” into the national vocabulary. By Geber’s definition, a solo ager (sometimes called an “elder orphan”) is a boomer without children and/or grandchildren. Geber, based in Santa Rosa, Calif., is a retirement coach for boomers, a life planning and retirement transition expert, a professional speaker, a workshop leader and a Forbes contributor. She has a Ph.D. in organizational behavior.

READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH GEBER.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"I would change the accessibility of affordable housing for older adults. I believe everyone should have the right and the means to age in community. We all (not just a small wealthy minority) need the opportunity to live in a clean, nurturing place where care and companionship is available to us when our world starts to shrink and we need help."

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Peter Gosselin
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Peter Gosselin: Muckraking Journalist on the Aging Beat

Investigative Reporter at ProPublica

Peter Gosselin has had a long and illustrious career as a journalist, but his biggest and most important story may have been the exposé he and reporter Ariana Tobin recently wrote for ProPublica: “Cutting ‘Old Heads’ at IBM.” As an investigative reporter on the aging beat at the nonprofit journalism outlet, Gosselin’s story documented a pattern at IBM of laying off older workers and replacing them with younger, less experienced, lower paid ones.

Gosselin, 67, spent 14 years at The Boston Globe (including some on the famed Spotlight investigative team) and then 10 years as national economic correspondent at The Los Angeles Times, before he was laid off at 63 — the same week his twins started college. He worked for President Obama for a bit and ProPublica hired him in 2017 to cover the aging beat from Washington, D.C.

READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH GOSSELIN.

Peter Gosselin has had a long and illustrious career as a journalist, but his biggest and most important story may have been the exposé he and reporter Ariana Tobin recently wrote for ProPublica: “Cutting ‘Old Heads’ at IBM.” As an investigative reporter on the aging beat at the nonprofit journalism outlet, Gosselin’s story documented a pattern at IBM of laying off older workers and replacing them with younger, less experienced, lower paid ones.

Gosselin, 67, spent 14 years at The Boston Globe (including some on the famed Spotlight investigative team) and then 10 years as national economic correspondent at The Los Angeles Times, before he was laid off at 63 — the same week his twins started college. He worked for President Obama for a bit and ProPublica hired him in 2017 to cover the aging beat from Washington, D.C.

Read More >

READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH GOSSELIN.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"That Americans recognize marginalization kills and that what's happening to older Americans — whether rich or poor, male or female, black, white, Latino or Asian — is marginalization."

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Tom Kamber
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Tom Kamber: Bringing Tech to All Older Adults

Founder and Executive Director of Older Adults Technology Services (OATS)/Senior Planet

Tom Kamber, one of Next Avenue’s 2018 Influencers in Aging, projects so much exuberance and enthusiasm as he discusses his work as founder and executive director of Older Adults Technology Services (OATS)/Senior Planet, that you believe he and his team will personally assure that every older adult in the country will be online before the end of the year.

He’s on his way: Over the past 14 years since it was founded, his organization has helped nearly 100,000 older adults get online and created the country’s first technology-themed community center for older adults. OATS has 50 technology community centers in five states across the country, serving urban and rural communities. In addition to serving as a tech education and community center for older adults, the New York City location has also been the backdrop for a Hack Aging event and Senior Planet Start-Up!, a 10-week program that helps 60+ tech entrepreneurs create businesses. Kamber also recently was in the spotlight as New York News1’s “New Yorker of the Week.”

READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH KAMBER.

Tom Kamber, one of Next Avenue’s 2018 Influencers in Aging, projects so much exuberance and enthusiasm as he discusses his work as founder and executive director of Older Adults Technology Services (OATS)/Senior Planet, that you believe he and his team will personally assure that every older adult in the country will be online before the end of the year.

He’s on his way: Over the past 14 years since it was founded, his organization has helped nearly 100,000 older adults get online and created the country’s first technology-themed community center for older adults. OATS has 50 technology community centers in five states across the country, serving urban and rural communities. In addition to serving as a tech education and community center for older adults, the New York City location has also been the backdrop for a Hack Aging event and Senior Planet Start-Up!, a 10-week program that helps 60+ tech entrepreneurs create businesses. Kamber also recently was in the spotlight as New York News1’s “New Yorker of the Week.”

Read More >

READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH KAMBER.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"I would change the mindset of how people think about aging, so when Americans contemplate their later years, they actively look forward to this stage of life as a time for growth, creativity and meaning. All of us can be 'aging with attitude.'"

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Jeanne Kelly
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Jeanne Kelly: A Joyful Song for Older Adults

Founder and Artistic Director of Encore

Jeanne Kelly is the founder and artistic director of Encore, the nation’s largest choral organization for adults ages 55 and older, based in Maryland. Encore features 15 chorales and 6 Encore ROCKS rock and roll choruses in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. area. Encore also has chorales in several other cities including New York City, Santa Clarita, Calif., Denver, Chicago and Reading, Pa. There are more than 2,000 singers involved in Encore across the country. Kelly is a vocal performer, conductor and teacher.

READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH KELLY.

Jeanne Kelly is the founder and artistic director of Encore, the nation’s largest choral organization for adults ages 55 and older, based in Maryland. Encore features 15 chorales and 6 Encore ROCKS rock and roll choruses in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. area. Encore also has chorales in several other cities including New York City, Santa Clarita, Calif., Denver, Chicago and Reading, Pa. There are more than 2,000 singers involved in Encore across the country. Kelly is a vocal performer, conductor and teacher.

READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH KELLY.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"I would love to see arts programs for older adults subsidized by Medicare, Medicaid and insurance companies. Sometimes these arts programs are as powerful as pills. Every day I see the enormous benefits of choral singing. It offers teamwork, improved physical and mental health, new friends and a tremendous amount of joy and hope."

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Rajiv Mehta
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Rajiv Mehta: Bringing Change for Caregivers

CEO and Founder of Atlas of Caregiving

Rajiv Mehta is the CEO and founder of Atlas of Caregiving, a California-based nonprofit whose mission is to bring about transformative change for family caregivers, in part by studying their day-to-day experience. Only with that research can the challenges they face be addressed with practical solutions, the organization believes. A former NASA scientist, Mehta earned a master’s in aeronautics from Stanford University and an MBA from Columbia University.

READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH MEHTA.

Rajiv Mehta is the CEO and founder of Atlas of Caregiving, a California-based nonprofit whose mission is to bring about transformative change for family caregivers, in part by studying their day-to-day experience. Only with that research can the challenges they face be addressed with practical solutions, the organization believes. A former NASA scientist, Mehta earned a master’s in aeronautics from Stanford University and an MBA from Columbia University.

READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH MEHTA.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"I would transform the conversation to focus on 'living well in America,' where people of all ages are empowered and properly supported to thrive within an all-inclusive community and are able to contribute their gifts fully to society."

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Jamie Mitchell
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Jamie Mitchell: Improving Health Care for Older African-American Men

Assistant Professor of Social Work at the University of Michigan

Jamie Mitchell, an assistant professor of social work at the University of Michigan, is dedicated to improving the experiences older African-American men have within the health care system. Mitchell studies communications between older African-American men and their physicians during cancer and chronic disease care, testing ways of intervening to increase support from family members and health providers and looking at how older African-American men navigate their appointments and aftercare directives.

Prior to working at the University of Michigan, Mitchell studied social work through lenses of health care at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and Ohio State University. Mitchell also serves as co-director of the Gender and Health Research Lab at the University of Michigan. She was named the University of Michigan’s 2016 Student Union Teacher of the Year.

READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH MITCHELL.

Jamie Mitchell, an assistant professor of social work at the University of Michigan, is dedicated to improving the experiences older African-American men have within the health care system. Mitchell studies communications between older African-American men and their physicians during cancer and chronic disease care, testing ways of intervening to increase support from family members and health providers and looking at how older African-American men navigate their appointments and aftercare directives.

Prior to working at the University of Michigan, Mitchell studied social work through lenses of health care at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and Ohio State University. Mitchell also serves as co-director of the Gender and Health Research Lab at the University of Michigan. She was named the University of Michigan’s 2016 Student Union Teacher of the Year.

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READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH MITCHELL.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"I would like to drastically improve the longevity and quality of life for older African-American men, particularly among men with lower incomes, less education and limited access to health-promoting resources. Older African-American men currently have one of the lower population-specific life expectancies in the United States, and those disparities begin early in life and carry into older adulthood."

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Janet Oh
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Janet Oh: Rewarding People Over 50 Who Are Helping Youth

Director of The Gen2Gen Encore Prize

Janet Oh, director of The Gen2Gen Encore Prize, shines a spotlight on people 50 and older who dedicate themselves to helping young people thrive. The prize is awarded by Encore.org, a 20-year-old innovation hub “tapping the talent of people 50+ as a force for good.” It’s part of Encore’s Generation to Generation (or Gen2Gen) initiative to support kids and assist them on a path to adult success.

Based in San Francisco, Oh, 39, is a former public school teacher and program director for Experience Corps [where older adults tutor inner-city kids] who has worked at Encore in a variety of capacities since 2012. She launched The Gen2Gen Encore Prize in 2017; at the time, it was called The Encore Prize. This year, Oh and her colleagues will give five winners a total of $100,000 in cash prizes, coaching and ongoing support.

READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH OH.

Janet Oh, director of The Gen2Gen Encore Prize, shines a spotlight on people 50 and older who dedicate themselves to helping young people thrive. The prize is awarded by Encore.org, a 20-year-old innovation hub “tapping the talent of people 50+ as a force for good.” It’s part of Encore’s Generation to Generation (or Gen2Gen) initiative to support kids and assist them on a path to adult success.

Based in San Francisco, Oh, 39, is a former public school teacher and program director for Experience Corps [where older adults tutor inner-city kids] who has worked at Encore in a variety of capacities since 2012. She launched The Gen2Gen Encore Prize in 2017; at the time, it was called The Encore Prize. This year, Oh and her colleagues will give five winners a total of $100,000 in cash prizes, coaching and ongoing support.

Read More >

READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH OH.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"I’d like younger and older generations to join forces to create a better future for all. Instead of being isolated by our differences, we can connect over our similarities. Our lives will be richer and our neighborhoods stronger."

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Christina Soriano
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Christina Soriano: The Impact of Improvisational Dance on Parkinson's

Director of the Dance Program at Wake Forest University

Christina Soriano, associate professor of dance and director of the dance program at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., as well as associate provost of the arts for the school, is the founder of IMPROVment ®, a program focused on physical and mental fitness for those with neurodegenerative diseases. Since 2012, Soriano has led free weekly community dance classes in Winston-Salem for people living with Parkinson’s disease (PD) and Alzheimer’s disease.

Along with Christina Hugenschmidt, an assistant professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, Soriano recently received a $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for a three-year clinical trial focused on improvisational dance. The goal is to learn how dance affects different body systems and to determine whether the movement aspect or the social engagement aspect — or both — affect quality of life in people with dementia.

READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH SORIANO.

Christina Soriano, associate professor of dance and director of the dance program at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., as well as associate provost of the arts for the school, is the founder of IMPROVment ®, a program focused on physical and mental fitness for those with neurodegenerative diseases. Since 2012, Soriano has led free weekly community dance classes in Winston-Salem for people living with Parkinson’s disease (PD) and Alzheimer’s disease.

Along with Christina Hugenschmidt, an assistant professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, Soriano recently received a $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for a three-year clinical trial focused on improvisational dance. The goal is to learn how dance affects different body systems and to determine whether the movement aspect or the social engagement aspect — or both — affect quality of life in people with dementia.

Read More >

READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH SORIANO.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"Creating more intergenerational dance opportunities in both urban and rural settings would demystify the idea that dance only belongs to the young or able-bodied. Dancing has physical and social benefits and can increase our quality of life. We all come into this world dancing; why can’t it continue throughout our lives?"  

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Rudy Tanzi
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Rudy Tanzi: Pioneering an Alzheimer's Cure

Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School

Rudy Tanzi is one of the best-known names in neuroscience in the world. He is the Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, whose lab is on the forefront of discovering the causes and potential cures for Alzheimer’s Disease. In 1987 and 1995, he co-discovered early-onset familial Alzheimer’s genes, and he identified many others in his work leading the Alzheimer’s Genome Project supported by the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund. He is the vice-chair of neurology and director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital. Time magazine named him to its list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World three years ago. In the past year, his lab discovered the link between herpes and Alzheimer’s, published in scientific journal, Neuron. Before the year is complete, he and co-authors  will publish a breakthrough study related to neural inflammation in the top scholarly journal on exercise and neurogenesis.

But what truly differentiates Tanzi in his work as a science superstar is his ability and willingness to translate his complicated research findings to a consumer audience in a way that is accessible and actionable. In 2018, he released his third co-authored book with Deepak Chopra, The Healing Self, which followed up two bestsellers, Super Brain and Super GenesEven in publishing for a broad audience, Tanzi’s eye is still on the major goal of curing Alzheimer’s.

READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH TANZI.

Rudy Tanzi is one of the best-known names in neuroscience in the world. He is the Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, whose lab is on the forefront of discovering the causes and potential cures for Alzheimer’s Disease. In 1987 and 1995, he co-discovered early-onset familial Alzheimer’s genes, and he identified many others in his work leading the Alzheimer’s Genome Project supported by the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund. He is the vice-chair of neurology and director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital. Time magazine named him to its list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World three years ago. In the past year, his lab discovered the link between herpes and Alzheimer’s, published in scientific journal, Neuron. Before the year is complete, he and co-authors  will publish a breakthrough study related to neural inflammation in the top scholarly journal on exercise and neurogenesis.

But what truly differentiates Tanzi in his work as a science superstar is his ability and willingness to translate his complicated research findings to a consumer audience in a way that is accessible and actionable. In 2018, he released his third co-authored book with Deepak Chopra, The Healing Self, which followed up two bestsellers, Super Brain and Super GenesEven in publishing for a broad audience, Tanzi’s eye is still on the major goal of curing Alzheimer’s.

Read More >

READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH TANZI.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"We're all living longer, and we need our healthspan to keep up with our lifespan. Right now our lifespan is exceeding our health span, especially when it comes to our brains. That can be done not only with pharmaceuticals and drugs, which we're working on, but it starts with you. Take care of your body, brain and mind — that staying healthy and staving off disease begins with you."

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Anne Tumlinson
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Anne Tumlinson: Transforming Long-Term Care for Older Adults

Founder of Daughterhood

Next Avenue 2018 Influencer in Aging Anne Tumlinson is a nationally recognized expert in the economics of an aging society. She is the founder of Daughterhood, an organization dedicated to building community around the experience of caring for aging parents. Daughterhood informs and supports the work Tumlinson and her team of researchers and analysts do through her firm, Anne Tumlinson Innovations, to help providers, payers and policymakers transform the financing and delivery of health and long-term care to older adults. (She wrote about some of these challenges in her Next Avenue essay, “Where is the ‘Assistance’ in Assisted Living?”)

READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH TUMLINSON.

Next Avenue 2018 Influencer in Aging Anne Tumlinson is a nationally recognized expert in the economics of an aging society. She is the founder of Daughterhood, an organization dedicated to building community around the experience of caring for aging parents. Daughterhood informs and supports the work Tumlinson and her team of researchers and analysts do through her firm, Anne Tumlinson Innovations, to help providers, payers and policymakers transform the financing and delivery of health and long-term care to older adults. (She wrote about some of these challenges in her Next Avenue essay, “Where is the ‘Assistance’ in Assisted Living?”)

READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH TUMLINSON.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT AGING IN AMERICA, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

"We have to create aging-friendly systems and communities where older adults and their families can easily tap into the support they need to live engaged and purposeful lives."