What We Do
It happens to the best of us. We are all aging, and the sooner we embrace it the better. In recent years, the increased focus of scientists and other professionals on the mysteries and complexities of growing old has yielded new insights and advances. This knowledge has helped to improve quality of life and has influenced public policy, business and industry, health care, and social supports. Yet, many still do not enjoy a long, healthy, meaningful life, and much remains to be explored, discovered, and applied. There are widespread misconceptions about aging and its impact on individuals, communities, and society. In the United States and around the world, we are facing dramatic and unprecedented growth of an aging population. We can anticipate the far-reaching consequences, and we need innovative solutions now.
To address the challenges of aging individuals, our aging society, and our aging world, the Brandeis Lifespan Initiative on Healthy Aging (LIHA) was founded in 2008. We have a strong and broad network of faculty affiliates at Brandeis and partnerships with local institutions that are committed to advancing healthy and active aging while also addressing the realities of disease and disability.
LIHA promotes interdisciplinary scholarship to optimize health and well-being across the lifespan with research and educational programs and application to public and private policies, service, and outreach. We generate, synthesize, and disseminate knowledge to address ageism and dispel myths about aging. We develop our positions and recommendations based on the best available research and practice.
Brandeis has a strong history of expertise and recognition in the field of aging within specific labs and programs — the Heller School, which has been a leader in social policy on aging and health for half a century; the Department of Psychology, which has carried out award-winning research and training for more than 25 years; and the Life Sciences, with several prominent labs conducting research on longevity, genetics, and aging-related diseases.
The time has come to deepen our commitment to research and teaching on aging and to strengthen our contributions to healthy aging by building on the strengths and expertise of the Brandeis faculty and cutting across disciplinary boundaries. LIHA enables us to join forces and reach out to many constituents across the university and in the Greater Boston area to address the pressing challenges and seize the emerging opportunities of our time. New ideas and creative projects are emerging as our talented colleagues put their hearts and minds together to discover and share critical information about aging.
LIHA considers aging in the context of the family, workplace and society at home and abroad. At the individual level, healthy aging encompasses multiple aspects of health such as physical and mental well being, cognitive abilities, quality of life, human connections and social networks. At the societal level, our emphasis on healthy aging recognizes we are all aging together by considering the impact of public policy, culture, social disparities, health care, housing, retirement and economic security.
Through an interdisciplinary perspective, our work seeks to foster healthy and vital aging and improve quality of life. Our basic goals are:
Optimizing health and well-being across the lifespan: LIHA takes a long-range perspective and a positive, proactive approach targeting the challenges for individuals, both young and old, and for society, stressing prevention, early detection, and optimization.
Pursuing social justice: Our commitment to social justice motivates us to understand social and economic determinants of well-being, to ameliorate disparities in health and longevity, to promote intergenerational equity and harmony, and to seek opportunities for all to age successfully.
Addressing aging globally: Our analysis of the long-term social, medical, economic, and policy implications of global demographic trends informs our work and helps us understand the universal complexities of an aging world. We seek to engage and inform public discourse about the consequences and to work together with academic, public, and private organizations to find multicultural, transferable solutions. We illuminate cultural variations and diversity in the aging process within the United States and abroad.
“Healthy Aging for All” is our call to action. In keeping with our core goals, it expresses our commitment to healthy aging at all ages and for all social, economic, ethnic, and cultural groups. We engage pressing issues, generate empirical findings, and create sensible solutions through the complementary approaches of research, education, and public service, with the Brandeis stamp and spirit.
Understanding and solving the complex problems of aging requires collaboration and cross-fertilization. To generate multifaceted findings and solutions that bring hope for advances in the well-being of people of all ages and backgrounds, our research draws on the wide-ranging work of outstanding scholars and researchers. We are working together across the university and the Greater Boston area to share expertise, ideas, and resources.
LIHA is focused on identifying and describing people who age well and those who do not, with the aim of investigating which processes contribute to these differences. We are developing intervention programs and recommendations to prevent, treat, or compensate for declines and to enhance and optimize functioning.
Current Research Topics
genetic bases of longevity
social gradients in health and disability
learning and memory
health consequences of stress
vision and hearing changes
work and retirement
nursing home transformation
economics of long-term services
We can achieve the highest quality scholarship and instruction when faculty and students step beyond their chosen discipline to apply their insights to questions of aging in interdisciplinary projects. The aging initiative provides cutting-edge opportunities for student learning and training in the burgeoning subfields of aging. We are developing innovative educational programs to address the changing needs of an aging population and those who serve them.
We are building bridges at Brandeis and we have established fruitful partnerships with other universities, agencies, community groups, businesses, and health care organizations in Waltham, Greater Boston, nationwide, and abroad. We will continue to disseminate research findings to scholars and students, the public, the media, and corporate leaders. We aim to contribute to discourse on social, economic, work, and health care policies; and to promote understanding of how the shared experiences of aging impact our individual, societal, and community lives.
Looking Foward: Healthy Body, Healthy Mind, Healthy Society
A committed, diverse, and talented team makes our scholarship far reaching, pathbreaking, and applicable. We are committed to furthering our vision and strengthening LIHA’s work and impact through conferences, lectures, courses, fellowships and seed grants. We inform the public about current issues on aging and disseminate practical information in a series called Brandeis Briefs: The Truth About Aging. We anticipate enriching our work with a vibrant center that brings together scholars of varied disciplines and areas of inquiry and connects them with students of all ages, policymakers, health care professionals, and business leaders; sparks ideas, solutions and innovations in research and practice; and provides state-of-the-art training and opportunities for interdisciplinary, experiential and lifelong learning.