The Future of Aging Reaches the Nobel Stage

December 5, 2014

In a sign of the undeniable importance of new thinking about human longevity, six Nobel Laureates will join international experts on aging for a daylong exploration of new scientific and cultural perspectives. “The Age to Come: New Scientific and Cultural Perspectives on Ageing,” which takes place on December 9 in Stockholm on the evening before the annual Nobel Prize ceremonies, will be streamed live at

“This conversation belongs on the world stage,” says Ursula Staudinger, director of the Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center, and an internationally recognized researcher on the optimization of aging. In the year 2000, there were more people in the world aged 60 and over than there were children below the age of 5. But societies have not yet grappled with the myriad ways this demographic shift will affect our lives.

Staudinger will deliver a plenary talk entitled “Demographic Change and Growth: A Paradox?,” which challenges the notion that aging and shrinking populations put an end to economic growth and innovation. A faculty member at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health, Staudinger described the gathering as “an unprecedented opportunity to discuss insights into human aging, its malleability, and its implications for societal change.”

Other speakers, including Elizabeth Blackburn, 2009 Nobel Laureate for Medicine, will delve into comparative studies of the diseases of aging, the economic burdens and opportunities that demographic change presents, and the technological and social perspectives on innovations related to our longer lives. In a program highlight, artist Jeff Koons will explore immortality with Eric Kandel, University Professor and director of the Kavli Institute for Brain Science at Columbia. Kandel, who also serves as co-director of the University's Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2000 for his work on memory and signal transduction in the nervous system.

“In both the developing and developed world, we have added at least 30 years to human lifespans,” says Linda Fried, Dean of Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health and a globally recognized figure in the science of aging. “When societies begin building greater understanding of this demographic shift, they will be able to optimize unprecedented social capital. Seeing the Nobel organization embrace the topic is a sign of health for 21st century civilization.”