Tag Archives: aging

Emotion, Aging, and Health (Bronfenbrenner Series on the Ecology of Human Development) 

Edited by Anthony D. Ong and Corinna E. Löckenhoff

Although older adults face significant health challenges, they tend to have better emotion regulation skills than younger or middle-age adults. Why is this so? This book explores the reciprocal relations between aging and emotion, as well as applications for promoting mental and physical health across the lifespan. The authors discuss the neural and cognitive mechanisms behind age-related shifts in affective experience and processing. In addition to presenting emotion regulation strategies for offsetting age-related declines in mental and physical functioning, the book examines the role of culture and motivation in shaping emotional experience across the lifespan, as well as the factors defining boundary conditions between human illness and human flourishing in old age.

Charles Brainerd

Reprinted from the Cornell Chronicle, March 8, 2017.

By Stephen D'Angelo

Charles Brainerd, professor and chair of the Department of Human Development in the College of Human Ecology, and 13 other scholars nationwide have been elected the newest members of the National Academy of Education (NAEd) for their scholarly contributions in the field of education research.

NAEd advances high-quality education research and its use in policy and practice. It consists of 209 U.S. members and 11 foreign associates who are elected on the basis of outstanding scholarship related to education.

“It was not something that I anticipated and came as a surprise,” Brainerd said. “For me, this is another indicator of the international stature of the human development department.”

Brainerd joins fellow Cornell NAEd members Stephen Ceci, Ronald Ehrenberg, Robert Sternberg and Kenneth Strike.

Brainerd has published more than 300 research articles and chapters and more than 20 books. His research covers human memory and decision-making, statistics and mathematical modeling, cognitive neuroscience, learning, intelligence, cognitive development, learning disability and child abuse.

Within the field, Brainerd’s research is known for having had deep impacts on educational, developmental and cognitive psychology, and he is credited with major breakthroughs across both his theoretical and empirical contributions.

His current research centers on the relation between memory and higher reasoning abilities in children and adults, also focusing on false-memory phenomena, cognitive neuroscience, aging and neurocognitive impairment.

Academy members are tapped to serve on expert study panels and are also engaged in NAEd’s professional development programs, including postdoctoral and dissertation fellowship programs.

“It’s an opportunity to serve,” said Brainerd. “The national academy forms committees and study groups of leading scholars to work on important issues in higher education – important and prominent questions of the day – and provides advice and leadership on those questions.”

Stephen D'Angelo is assistant director of communications for the College of Human Ecology.

Reprinted from the Weill Cornell Medicine Newsroom, August 1, 2016

Financial exploitation of older people by those who should be protecting them results in devastating health, emotional and psychological consequences. A group of international elder abuse experts met in June at Weill Cornell Medicine to map out a strategy for conducting research on this problem in low and middle income countries.

The meeting, organized by Dr. Mark Lachs, co-chief of the Division of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine and the Irene F. and I. Roy Psaty Distinguished Professor of Clinical Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine, and Dr. Karl Pillemer, director of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research and the Hazel E. Reed Professor in the Department of Human Development at Cornell University, brought together experts from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Argentina.


Karl Pillemer, Director of the BCTR

"Over the last few years, studies have found financial abuse and exploitation of older people to be extremely prevalent and extremely harmful for older people," said Dr. Pillemer, who is also a professor of gerontology in medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine. "These studies have mostly been done in the United States, England, and other high income countries, but very little is known about how this problem plays out in low-income countries. Our goal was to bring together research internationally and comparatively to try to understand this problem."

"This issue is an interesting integration of sociology, medicine, economics and geopolitics," said Dr. Lachs, who is director of Weill Cornell Medicine's Center for Aging Research and Clinical Care and director of geriatrics for the New York-Presbyterian Health System. "There has been growing interest here in the United States on financial vulnerability of older people, but I'm unaware of an international group that is focused on this."

One consequence of older people who are being financially exploited is that they cannot meet their own health needs. There are also psychological and emotional consequences because some older people live in fear of relatives who may be exploiting them and may give away much needed pensions to spouses, adult children, and other extended family members.

Elder experts

Elder experts Top (from left): Chelsie Burchett, Bridget Penhale, Karl Pillemer, Janey Peterson, Kendon Conrad, Mark Lachs, Natal Ayiga, Steve Gresham. Bottom (from left): Peter Lloyd-Sherlock, David Burnes, Nelida Redondo.

According to Dr. Pillemer, based on available evidence, 5 to 10 percent of older people globally may experience some kind of financial exploitation. Exploitation can take different forms. In high-income countries, like the United States, the abuse may encompass theft, misuse of power of attorney or denying access to funds. In low-income regions, financial exploitation results from abuse of local laws and cultural norms. For example, in some South American countries, the law requires that children receive the parents’ dwelling, resulting in children moving parents into nursing homes in order to obtain the house. In parts of sub-Saharan Africa, women may be accused of witchcraft in order to seize their property or gain access to their funds.

Government pensions in low-income countries have become a source of income for older people, which puts them at risk for financial exploitation. However, researchers need to be sensitive to local cultural norms in their conduct of research and analysis of data so governments are not hesitant to provide much needed income to older people, according to Dr. Lachs.

"In some of the countries there's a cultural expectation that if the older person has a pension it will be shared with other family members," Dr. Lachs said. "Whereas in my practice, if a patient tells me that a child is asking for some of their pension, it raises the specter of the potential for financial exploitation."

The group, Dr. Pillemer said, concluded that there's a desperate need for new scientific knowledge about the extent, causes and consequences of this problem, as well as a need to understand how the problem of financial exploitation is the same across countries, and how it differs. The group is now working on a white paper to make the case for comparative research on financial exploitation of older people.

"That's important for a very critical reason: By looking at the dynamics of financial abuse in different countries, we can understand how policies affect both how much abuse occurs and how to deal with it," Dr. Pillemer said.

In addition to Dr. Pillemer and Dr. Lachs, attendees of the meeting were:

  • Bridget Penhale, Reader in Mental Health, University of East Anglia, UK;
  • Peter Lloyd-Sherlock, Professor of Social Policy and International Development, University of East Anglia, UK;
  • Steve Gresham, Executive Vice President, Private Client Group, Fidelity Investments, and Adjunct Lecturer in International and Public Affairs, Watson Institute, Brown University;
  • David Burnes, Assistant Professor, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto;
  • Nelida Redondo, Senior Researcher, Universidad Isalud, Argentina;
  • Natal Ayiga, North-West University, South Africa;
  • Janey Peterson, Associate Professor of Clinical Epidemiology in Medicine, Integrative Medicine and Cardiothoracic Surgery, Weill Cornell Medicine; and
  • Ken Conrad, Professor Emeritus, University of Illinois at Chicago.

The meeting was supported by the Elbrun & Peter Kimmelman Family Foundation, Inc.

Ong & Loeckenhoff New book probes emotion, aging and health                                                                         New approaches to understanding physical and psychological changes in old age – differences in personality, for instance, or responses to stressful events and the role of positive emotions in promoting well-being – are presented in a new book co-edited                                       by Cornell human development professors Anthony Ong  and Corinna Loeckenhoff.                   
QiWangTNRetweeting may overload your brain                                                                                               In a digital world where information is at your fingertips, be prepared to hold on tight before it slips right through them. Research at Cornell and Beijing University finds retweeting or otherwise sharing information creates a “cognitive overload” that                                           interferes with learning and retaining what you’ve just seen.
bebesInside Cornell’s BABY Labs                                                                                                            Steven S. Robertson and Marianella Casasola, professors in Human Development, run baby labs at Cornell. where researchers are discovering more about the nuances of infant development. It’s a crucial area of academic research and exploration, given the                               impact early development has on later stages of life.
 20120827_rns74_portrait_25Mapping the Resting-state Brain                                                                                                         In the Department of Human Development, fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) informs Nathan Spreng’s studies of large-scale brain network dynamics and their role in cognition.
BaileyPSPIimage-200x300 Checking Up on the Science of Homosexuality                                                                               A new systematic review and commentary published in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest takes a sweeping look at what the evidence says about homosexuality and sexual orientation in general. 

Student in the News

 Human Ecology Faculty-Led Undergraduate Research. Eve DeRosa / Annie EricksonSide by side                                                                                                                                       Many undergraduates in Human Development work side by side with faculty in the lab. Read about this transformative approach to learning in an interview with Annie Erickson '16 and her mentor, Professor Eve De Rosa.

 More Stories

K.KinzlerStudies Suggest Multilingual Exposure Boosts Children's Communication Skills      Listen to NPR's Robert Siegel's interview with Katherine Kinzler, associate professor of psychology and human development, about her research on the development of social skills in monolingual and multilingual children.                                                                                 


video play button                                                                                                                                                          Professor Corinna Loeckenhoff talks about aging with Karl Pillemer, Director of the BCTR


By H. Roger Segelken

Republished from Cornell Chronicle, April 25, 2016

Ong & Loeckenhoff

Human development professors Anthony Ong and Corinna Loeckenoff. Jason Koski/University Photography

New approaches to understanding physical and psychological changes in old age – differences in personality, for instance, or responses to stressful events and the role of positive emotions in promoting well-being – are presented in a new book co-edited by Cornell human development professors Anthony Ongand Corinna Loeckenhoff.

Emotion, Aging, and Health” presents selected concepts from the Fourth Biennial Urie Bronfenbrenner Conference on New Developments in Aging, Emotion and Health hosted on campus in 2013 by Loeckenhoff and Ong.

“We’re only beginning to understand the complex interplay between emotional experiences and physical health across the adult life span,” said Loeckenhoff. “One of the most important developments in recent years is this: We can finally draw connections between subjective emotional experience, patterns of brain activation, and biomarkers of chronic stress.”

Loeckenhoff said science has been “so focused on understanding emotion as a marker of mental health that we have overlooked its implications for physical health. Especially in later life, emotional responses can buffer the adverse effects of physical conditions; but they (emotional responses) can also be a risk factor for adverse health outcomes.”

Ong said the publication “provides a state-of-the art overview of methods and approaches associated with the study of emotional aging and health. The chapters, written by leading researchers in the field, discuss topics such as emotion regulation, cross-cultural research, healthy aging and interventions.” He hopes some of the questions raised will stimulate future investigation, and that the new volume will help students and scholars “gain a working understanding of research approaches and key issues at the intersection of emotion, aging and health.”

emotion book

Conference presenters – mainly psychologists and experts in human development – came from an international cross-section of institutions: Cornell, Harvard, Northeastern and Stanford universities and the University of California, among others, as well as Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid and the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin.

Previous topics for the conference-and-publication series honoring Urie Bronfenbrenner (1917-2005), the longtime Cornell professor of human development and of psychology, included “Chaos and Its Influence on Children’s Development” and “The Neuroscience of Risky Decision Making.” A founder of the national Head Start program, Bronfenbrenner joined the Cornell faculty in 1948. The Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research (BCTR) in the College of Human Ecology honors his vision to join science and service.

Writing the volume’s foreword, gerontologist Karl Pillemer, Cornell’s Hazel E. Reed Professor of Human Development and BCTR director, imagines the book would please Bronfenbrenner. “As a translational researcher before the name existed, he would embrace the themes of development and plasticity in later life, the importance given to social and cultural factors in understanding emotions, and the commitment to applying these scientific insights in creating an optimal world in which to grow old.”

H. Roger Segelken is a freelance writer.

Elaine Wethington at Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University

Published on Jan 21, 2015

While the demographics of the life cycle favor men’s ability to pair and re-pair more than women’s, Pepper Schwarz, Professor of Sociology, University of Washington, argues that everyone is more likely to mate in cities. Professor of Human Development, Cornell University, Elaine Wethington considers the need to recast the aging population, who are increasingly healthy into their late 80’s, as an important social resource. Moderated by Senior VP of The California Endowment, Anthony Iton.

By Ted Boscia
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, November 4, 2014

Cornell’s Translational Research Institute for Pain in Later Life (TRIPLL), a New York City-based center to help older adults prevent and manage pain, has received a five-year, $1.95 million renewal grant from the National Institute on Aging.

The institute, formed in 2009 as one of 12 national Edward R. Roybal Centers for Translational Research on Aging, studies innovative, nonpharmacological methods to ease persistent pain, which is estimated to afflict nearly half of older Americans. TRIPLL unites social and psychological scientists at Cornell’s Ithaca campus, Weill Cornell Medical College researchers and community-based health care partners.

With the grant renewal, TRIPLL adds a focus on behavior change science, seeking to apply insights from psychology, sociology, economics and communications to develop optimal pain management techniques. For instance, knowing how and why older adults decide on various medications, therapies, exercises and other methods to limit pain can help individuals and their caregivers to weigh their preferred treatments. TRIPLL investigators also plan to explore how new communication tools, including social media and smartphones, can be harnessed to manage pain.

“In spite of how widespread chronic pain is among older adults, there are relatively few tested interventions to help people reduce their pain,” said TRIPLL co-director Karl Pillemer, the Hazel E. Reed Professor of Human Development in the College of Human Ecology. “Our new focus is exciting because we hope to translate findings into more effective interventions by deepening our understanding of human behavior and decision-making.”

More than 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, more than those affected by heart disease, diabetes and cancer combined. Yet relatively few researchers study pain management, with most focusing on well-known diseases. But untreated pain takes a physical, mental, social and economic toll on older adults, according to TRIPLL co-director Cary Reid, the Irving Sherwood Wright Associate Professor of Geriatric Medicine at Weill Cornell.

“Treating pain in older patients is challenging in many ways,” Reid added. “There are few studies that enroll typical older patients that can help to guide management decisions. Older adults are more sensitive than younger adults to medication-related side effects, and many older individuals (along with their health care providers) believe that pain is supposed to be present in later life.”

Despite these challenges, Reid said that preventive approaches are critical to lessen the many negative consequences – such as reduced mobility, depression and anxiety, sleep impairment and social isolation – of poorly controlled pain.

In its first five years, TRIPLL has funded 30 pilot studies on innovative treatments, policies and interventions for improved pain management. More than 100 investigators – faculty members and graduate students – have been mentored by TRIPLL investigators, including presentations of their work at monthly work-in-progress seminars.

The institute will continue to have strong community roots, said TRIPLL co-director Elaine Wethington, professor of human development and of sociology. In Ithaca and New York City, TRIPLL researchers are partnering with health care providers, hospice and home nurse agencies and older adults themselves to match interventions to their needs. Its translational focus seeks to move evidence-based techniques directly into clinical practices, programs and policies.

“The involvement of community organizations in every aspect of research project development – from conceptualization, design, participant recruitment and eventual dissemination – is one of TRIPLL’s strengths” said Wethington. “The input of community agencies and consumers leads to research that is more likely to be implemented successfully in diverse cultural settings.”

Affiliated with Cornell’s Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, TRIPLL includes collaborating investigators at Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell University (Ithaca campus) and the Hebrew Home at Riverdale. TRIPLL also maintains ongoing partnerships with Columbia University, the Hospital for Special Surgery, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Visiting Nurse Service of New York, and the Council of Senior Centers and Services of NYC.

Ted Boscia is director of communications for the College of Human Ecology.

Related Links

College of Human Ecology
Weill Cornell Medical College

By Scott Goldberg
Reprinted from the Cornell Chronicle, April 23, 2014

Karim at service learning

Karin Abouelnaga '13 gives the keynote address at the annual Service-Learning Showcase April 17. Photo by Robert Barker/University Photography

“There are a million different problems out there. Every single day in any urban city you walk by, there are people who are homeless, people who are sick. How do you know when you’ve identified the problem that you should be solving?” asked keynote speaker Karim Abouelnaga ’13 at the annual Service-Learning Showcase held on April 17.

Karim, founder of the nonprofit Practice Makes Perfect, emphasized the importance of personal reflection in problem-solving and encouraged the nearly 200 faculty, staff and students in attendance to bridge the gap between their work at Cornell and their passion to make a difference.

Pillemer at service learning

Karl Pillemer, right, listens to the keynote address during the showcase. Photo by Robert Barker/University Photography

Abouelnaga’s address also celebrated those across campus devoted to public engagement locally, nationally and internationally. The address was followed by a ceremony for faculty and student project awards, co-sponsored by Engaged Learning + Research and the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives. Winning projects received $1,500 to support future community-engagement initiatives; they were selected on their impact on the communities they serve, project sustainability and knowledge dissemination within the Cornell community and beyond.

Kira Gidron ’13, a graduate student in the field of systems engineering, won the Student Excellence in Community-Engaged Learning + Research Award for her work with the Intag Project. The project is a long-term partnership that links community organizations in Intag, Ecuador, with Cornell students through coursework and close collaboration with on-the-ground community partners. As an experiential learning class, it aims to strengthen sustainable and socially just alternatives to open-pit mining in Ecuador through education, outreach and economic development.

The Faculty Excellence in Community Collaboration Award went to professors Karl Pillemer, M. Carrington Reid and Elaine Wethington, who co-direct the Translational Research Institute on Pain in Later Life. The institute brings together dozens of outstanding faculty, staff, students and community partners to improve the health and well-being of older adults through non-pharmacological interventions for chronic pain. Now in its fifth year, the institute benefits communities across New York state and nationally.

The showcase also featured several student projects from the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) Annual Meeting and gave grants totaling $10,000 to outstanding projects. The top CGI U Commitment Award went to Scholars Working Ambitiously to Graduate (SWAG), a group led by students Kendrick Coq ’15, Channing McNeal ’15 and Thaddeus Talbot ’15. SWAG fosters a supportive environment at Cornell to increase black men’s graduation rate to 90 percent by 2015, putting the group on par with the graduation rate of other racial demographics on campus. Honorable mentions went to Alexon Grochowski ’15, Joseph Nelson ’14 and Ralph-Cedric Comeau ’16 for Inclusive School Haiti; Timothy Smith ’14 for The Bekondo Project; and Angela Han ’15 for Project STAR: Celebrating Women.

The event also featured graduate student Meredith Ramirez Talusan’s “Keep Your Hat On” photography exhibit, which identifies Cornellians across disciplines that engage in social innovation and entrepreneurship. A total of 42 groups presented at the showcase.

Scott Goldberg ’16 is a student intern writer for the Cornell Chronicle.

Related Links:
Service-Learning Showcase
Bekondo Foundation


Breakthroughs in how we understand the human brain's structure and internal communication networks are helping scientists track neurological changes over time.

Nathan Spreng, assistant professor at Cornell University's Department of Human Development, is using advancement in neuroimaging to better understand how the brain functions and changes as we age. His research currently focuses on large scale brain dynamics and their function in cognition.

One of the most exciting frontiers in this regard is the reconceptualization of the brain as a complex system of many large and constantly interacting networks of brain regions. Read more