The Center provides training in the context of a broad range of research projects that fall into six thematically connected areas:
Foundations of health and well-being in middle and later adulthood have many origins earlier in life and across generations. Patterns and experiences established earlier shape subsequent well-being as well as morbidity and mortality. Using a life course epidemiological approach, active research projects assess connections of developmental transitions, social roles, and health behaviors in early and middle adulthood in tandem with structural and social factors contributing to disparities across the life course. Current work focuses on relationships, education, and work as contexts of development as well as adverse childhood experiences, stress, sleep and substance use as behaviors and outcomes of interest using a variety of at-risk, national, and regional samples.
The research strives to assess and understand "life as it is lived." Using Daily Diary (DD) and Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) designs, these studies emphasize physiological, emotional, social, cognitive, and behavioral components of daily life that influence aging, health, and well-being. Our Center is home to several intensive measurement studies that use DD, EMA, and measurement burst designs in large national, racially diverse, and high risk samples.
Our researchers employ multiple methods to understand how cognition changes with age and the psychological, social, and environmental factors driving those changes. Research topics include memory, language, attention, executive function, and methods to maintain cognition. Many of the researchers in this area investigate these topics using experimental, neuroimaging, and ambulatory methods. Much of the research in our center focuses on understanding how cognitive function is influenced by various exposures and risk factors, such as stress, physical inactivity, social isolation, substance use, air quality, extreme weather, and social determinants.
Several faculty are actively engaged in examining behavioral interventions to maintain health, everyday functioning, and emotional wellbeing. Interventions include cognitive training, exercise programs, and family-oriented interventions. Ongoing studies and research at the Center promise to offer new insights and advances for healthy aging.
Scientists and engineers in our center develop cognitive tests and software that allows researchers to measure subtle changes in cognitive function using assessments obtained on mobile devices. Our mobile assessment tools are currently used in clinical trials to evaluate dietary and cognitive training interventions, in longitudinal studies to improve the early identification of Alzheimer’s and related dementia, and track short-term (e.g., hourly) variations in cognitive function associated with psychosocial (e.g., stress) and physiological (e.g., glucose excursions in Type 1 diabetics) states.
Close relationships play a critical role in healthy aging. Research studies conducted within the Center for Healthy Aging are targeted at important issues facing our aging population. One current focus is on how changes in health affect the structure and quality of our close relationships (and vice versa) throughout adulthood. In addition, we study the experiences of family caregiving and care-receiving, couples’ adaptation to stress, and couple-based interventions to enhance individual, couple, and family well-being. Our research staff also have a long history of documenting the positive and negative influence of close family members on self-management of chronic illness and engagement in healthy behaviors such as exercise and good sleep practices.
Our population is not only becoming older, it is becoming more diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation. Investigators in our center conduct research to identify psychological, social, and physiological factors that are associated with health, well-being and mortality, and whether these relationships are unique to all minority older adult populations. The overarching goal of these research efforts is to provide empirical evidence of potential mechanisms that can be modified to sustain and/or improve the latter end of the life course across our diverse older adult populations.