Ten years ago, when the Stanford Center on Longevity was brand new, people didn’t really talk about “longevity.” Instead, the term of art was “aging,” and it was viewed largely as something to be feared. It was a time of cognitive decline and physical disease, and, what with aging baby boomers, we were all in for something of a gray Armageddon.
Laura Carstensen, PhD, the center’s director, and her colleagues helped change the tone of that debate to something altogether more optimistic and more focused on getting things done. As I wrote in a Stanford News story published last week:
As Carstensen and colleagues worked with Stanford researchers and others to get their heads around the challenges of aging, however, they realized they didn’t just have a problem to solve, but rather an opportunity to take advantage of. A work force that lives to be 100 years old, for example, has more chances to pause work or work part time, allowing them to take more time to learn new things, raise families, and volunteer.
There’s also a hint at the Center’s somewhat unusual origin story. The center began, in a way, as a 2004 Stanford magazine story on aging. Pretty much all of the scholars interviewed, Carstensen said, agreed that they needed to collaborate on issues surrounding aging — not just physical health, but also cognitive health and financial security — and that they needed to figure out how to take advantage of the opportunities that longer lives presented. The Stanford piece got them the impetus they needed, in the form of donations that got the center and its myriad collaborations off the ground.
You can read about some of the Stanford Center on Longevity’s accomplishments and its history in my piece.
Previously: A call to arms on aging: A conversation with Lesley Stahl and Laura Carstensen and A look at aging and longevity in this "unprecedented" time in history
Photo courtesy of Freeman Spogli Institute