University of Minnesota’s Life Course Center becomes a National Institute on Aging Center

In 2018, approximately 16% of the U.S. population was 65 years or older. The median age of Americans continues to rise and the Census Bureau predicts older Americans will outnumber children by 2035. With this in mind – it is important to understand both the nature of aging and how we can extend healthy, active, and meaningful years of life. The University of Minnesota’s Life Course Center (LCC) is an incubator of innovative research, instruction, and collaborations in demography and the economics of aging. Accordingly, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) has awarded the LCC funding to become an NIA Center on the Demography and Economics of Aging.

“This designation is really going to support our mission,” says LCC Director Phyllis Moen. “It’s going to help us do cutting-edge research on population and health trends, how disparate work and retirement pathways can lead to inequalities across subgroups, the relationships between work, family, community and health.”

The center grant will allow the Life Course Center to break down disciplinary and data barriers to innovative research – providing logistical and technical support to researchers as well as leadership and vision. The LCC aims to use funds to nurture new, innovative projects by researchers through a seed grant program. Assistance will also be provided to address the challenges associated with big population data, access to restricted data, as well as the contacts and networks that enable projects to thrive. The Center will have a particular focus on supporting projects by new and early stage investigators as well as scholars from underrepresented backgrounds.

“We’re really excited to move the field forward by offering pilot support to talented investigators,” says Moen. “It will really create a vibrant, interdisciplinary group addressing challenges of our aging society --  fostering new ideas, sharing knowledge, and providing the needed resources to get studies off and running.”

A key focus of the center is on the life course factors that shape  disparities in outcomes as people grow older. With the world’s largest population data collections, researchers have the opportunity to dive into important questions about alternative experiences of subgroups defined by gender, race, economic status, educational background, and geographical location as well as by age.  

“At the end of the day – it’s about fostering better, more equitable futures for individuals and families across the later life course,” concludes Moen.