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UT Center Paves the Way on ‘Future of Aging’ Research

UT Center Paves the Way on ‘Future of Aging’ Research
The Center on Aging and Population Sciences is now accepting proposals for 2021 pilot studies. Deadline to submit is January 22.
As populations age, they carry their weight of experiences, both good and bad — but collectively powerful in setting the pace of aging.

Now, scholars at the Center on Aging and Population Sciences (CAPS) at The University of Texas at Austin rally behind efforts to understand how these experiences shape a population's future and influence disparities in health and well-being.

"Texas is the future of aging," says the center's director of research Karen Fingerman, a professor of human development and family sciences at UT Austin and co-director of the Texas Aging and Longevity Center (TALC). "Our demography is the demography that will be prominent throughout the U.S. in years to come."

As one of 14 centers nationwide designated as a P30 Center on the Demography and Economics of Aging by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), CAPS fills an important void in the nation's aging and population research.

"If you map out the locations of the P30 centers across the country, you'll see that having this research hub in Texas not only plays an important role geographically, but also demonstrates our unique advantage in advancing the literature on Latinx populations," says the center's director and principal investigator Debra Umberson, a sociology professor at UT Austin.

The center is "an incubator for innovative research," Umberson describes, and aims to promote interdisciplinary collaborations and increase the number and diversity of scholars who study aging from a population perspective.

With support from NIA, the center will award ($2,000-$40,000) four-to-five pilot studies each year based on their potential to illuminate how biological, psychosocial and environmental factors intersect and cascade throughout the life course to generate disparities in health and well-being at older ages. Areas of emphasis, include:

  1. Life Course Precursors of Advantage and Disadvantage at Older Ages
  2. Family Demography, Social Engagement and Social Isolation
  3. Place, Aging and Health

"These pilot projects will advance the trajectory of aging and population research and move the field forward considerably," says Fingerman, emphasizing the possibility of pilot projects blossoming into larger, NIA-supported research projects.

The center has already awarded five research projects, led by researchers from the university's College of Liberal Arts, College of Natural Sciences and the Population Research Center. The projects are diverse in their focus to understand how education, neighborhoods, insurance coverage, genetics and even a mother's earnings influence life course trajectories.

"UT Austin will play an essential role in figuring out how experiences from childhood throughout adulthood shape advantages and disadvantages in health and well-being at older ages," Umberson says. "This information can be used to identify risk and protective factors that may vary across social groups and to reduce disparities in health and aging."

This article by Rachel White first appeared on the College of Liberal Arts website.

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