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Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center

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The Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center is comprised of two major branches: The Aging Lab, which conducts disciplinary and interdisciplinary basic research aimed at deciphering the positive plasticity of the aging process and its limits and The International Longevity Center, which incorporates work on knowledge transfer, advocacy, and outreach

Never before have people enjoyed life expectancy beyond age 80. Now, it is becoming commonplace in countries all around the world. With these extra years come many challenges to ensure that people are living not only longer lives, but rich lives filled with purpose and good health that benefit all generations and society at large.

Through innovation in science, policy, and practice, the Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center, under the direction of Ursula M. Staudinger, PhD, seeks to develop the knowledge base necessary to inform aging-related health and social policy locally, nationally, and globally, in addition to train a new generation of thought leaders to address issues facing societies of longer lives.

The Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center is composed of two major branches:

  1. The Aging Lab, which conducts disciplinary and interdisciplinary basic research aimed at deciphering the positive plasticity of the aging process and its limits
  2. The International Longevity Center, which incorporates work on knowledge transfer, advocacy, and outreach

The Aging Lab

The Center’s Aging Lab is dedicated to basic disciplinary and interdisciplinary research to better understand the processes and conditions of aging by taking a lifespan and life-course approach.

Modern notions of development and aging claim that human development is the result of the interaction between three different sources: biology (maturation/senescence), culture (learning), and the individual person (decision/action). This leaves much room for variation within and between individuals, labeled as plasticity. Specifically, plasticity is defined as the divergence of an individual’s development from the average developmental trajectory, for better or for worse. Plasticity is dependent on available internal or external resources. Research in the Aging Lab focuses on the positive side of plasticity, aiming to explain how it is possible that performance and functional outcomes hold up under stress (resilience), as well as why certain individuals or the same individual under certain conditions even excel in levels of functioning (growth).

Mailman faculty, scholars from across Columbia, and other academic and research institutions will address key issues concerning aging individuals and societies facing longer lives.  Through these multidisciplinary collaborations, the Aging Lab seeks to generate systematic knowledge about and new models for explaining the interactions between the levels of the aging processes. The goal is to optimize aging in terms of the prevention or minimization of losses, the promotion of gains, and to explore the potential and limitations of personalizing optimized aging.

Annually, the Aging Lab will announce pilot grants revolving around these issues. It will make contributions to academic education from the Bachelor to the PhD levels. Regular Aging Lab Seminars will bring together select aging scholars to discuss specific topics at the forefront of the science of aging.

The International Longevity Center

Founded in 1990 by world-renowned gerontologist Robert N. Butler, the International Longevity Center (ILC) was formed to educate individuals on how to live longer and better, and advise society on how to maximize the benefits of today's longer lifespans.

Never before have people enjoyed the life expectancy beyond age 80 that is becoming commonplace in countries all around the world. With these extra years come many challenges to ensure that people are living not only longer lives, but rich lives filled with purpose and good health that benefit all generations and society at large.

The ILC has taken the lead in helping individuals, corporations, foundations, and government leaders to navigate this unprecedented increase in longevity through original research, scientific workshops, educational publications, and corporate and government relations.

Under the late Dr. Butler's leadership, the New York-based ILC has long been part of a multinational consortium of ILC centers in the U.S., Japan, Great Britain, France, Dominican Republic, India, South Africa, Argentina, the Netherlands, Israel, Czech Republic and Singapore. From the vantage point of their national experience, each of these ILC centers studies how greater life expectancy and the growing percentage of older persons in a population impact the culture, the economy, and the social fabric, and advocates for improved societal policies for an aging world.

A New Chapter for the ILC

Honoring the wishes of Dr. Butler and in keeping with his longstanding commitment and generosity to Columbia University, the mission, work, and the assets of the ILC will become the foundation for an interdisciplinary center on longevity and aging at Columbia University, anchored at the Mailman School of Public Health.

The new center will grow to serve as a research and educational hub for understanding and addressing issues in science, policy, and practice related to healthy aging and the larger implications for society of a longer life span. The center will train a new generation of thought leaders in these issues, while also developing knowledge to inform aging-related health and social policy in New York City, the U.S., and globally.

People

  • Dean, Mailman School of Public Health, DeLamar Professor of Public Health Practice, Senior Vice President, Columbia University Medical Center, Professor of Epidemiology and of Medicine
  • Robert N. Butler Professor, Director, Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center