Mission of the Butler Columbia Aging Center

This Columbia University-wide Center’s mission is to conduct interdisciplinary research and provide education to advance the goals of increasing health span for all in our world of longer lives, building the knowledge as to how to create wellbeing in our new second half of life, and making longevity an asset so that people of all ages may better thrive in our world’s aging societies.

Through its efforts, the Butler CAC seeks to bring about a Third Demographic Dividend: a new stage of societal development in which all ages and society broadly can benefit from the opportunities and assets of longer lives. This will require translating scientific evidence into creating healthy longer lives for all, and – with increased health span and through new societal institutions and opportunities - enabling older adults to use their many assets to help solve unmet societal needs through roles with meaning and purpose. Through the transformation of societal institutions that build human capital—including education, the workplace and health systems, the social programs that create financial security, and building roles that utilize the contributions of older people towards building a better future—we will enable successfully aging societies. These roles of meaning and purpose will create increased wellbeing for both older people and for the young, and strengthen alignment and support between generations. With core components of equity, cohesion, security, wellbeing, and engagement, all generations can benefit from longer lives, and all ages thrive.

The dramatic demographic change of the last 100 years, that of almost doubling life expectancy around the world, is an historically unprecedented occurrence resulting from societal investments. Whether we now societally build out the opportunities of longer lives in a way that benefits all ages or adhere to myths and misapprehensions that longer lives are a net negative for society will determine which world we create. The evidence supports a high potential both to be healthy in our longer lives and to design a second half of life that enables wellbeing and societal thriving.

The Butler Columbia Aging Center (CAC) is dedicated to defining challenges to health across the life course, to seizing the opportunity to increase the years of healthy life with high function for all, and to building health futures at every age and into the oldest ages. We lead science to extend and improve health span, compress morbidity, and resolve disparities, including prevention of chronic diseases, frailty, cognitive decline and disability, and addressing emerging public health challenges such as loneliness. Our science distinguishes biological aging and disease, and seeks to define the valuable capabilities of older age and the assets these offer.

We promote successful aging for individuals and societies through research, its translation into impact, policy advocacy and education. Our 21st century approach prioritizes the human values and moral responsibilities at the core of aging societies and makes healthy aging and intergenerational wellbeing a basis for equity and a shared project for families, communities, nations, and global societies.

The Butler CAC sits in the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, with responsibility to serve as an incubator and stimulus for research on longevity for public health and across the Mailman School, and catalyzing shared vision across the Columbia University Irving Medical Center and Columbia University.

We collaborate with researchers and students across the Columbia University Irving Medical Center and across Columbia University, and engage in partnerships more broadly.

For Columbia University

The Butler CAC steers the quarterly university-wide faculty convening under the auspices of the University Seminars entitled “The Future of Aging Research.” Launched in 2015, the mission of this faculty seminar is to provide an interactive interdisciplinary forum for scientists to engage with one another, to generate new ideas and new methods, and to stimulate new approaches to the science of aging, engaging 60 principal investigators across Columbia University's campuses. Discussions are sparked by leaders in complementary areas spanning societal context, individual, and organismal/biological perspectives.

The Butler CAC partners with the Columbia School of Journalism to train journalists on cross-sector topics that are impacted by societal aging in its Jack Rosenthal and Robert N. Butler Age Boom Academy for members of the media. Named in honor of its founders, the Age Boom Academy has trained journalists on the facts of aging and longevity since 2000. Recent themes have included the future of work and retirement, the solutions to loneliness and isolation in aging, and the opportunity costs of our informal caregiving economy.

The Center also provides innovative leadership on aging for Columbia undergraduates and graduate students. Launched in 2018, “(Y)our Longer Life” is a keystone Columbia course in the undergraduate public health concentration and the MPH Certificate on aging. Attracting over 100 students each year, the course entices them to consider the bases for longer lives — a public health success. The course also has students imagine what their own 100-year life can look like, and lays the basis for students to become an informed public for the necessary societal transformations to support their own healthy longevity.

For Columbia University Irving Medical Center

The Butler CAC is a homebase for aging research, education, and policy. The Steering Committee for the CUIMC Aging Initiative is hosted at the Center and helps define priorities for the future of research on healthy longevity. All four schools and many CUIMC centers are represented on this Steering Committee.

The Center is also the home of the Computational Geroscience Core. The Core provides consultation and technical support to all CUIMC researchers for the measurement and analysis of cutting-edge biomarkers of aging within clinical trials and observational studies.

Within the Mailman School of Public Health

The Butler CAC trains undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate students, as well as professionals, to develop a next generation of leaders who can innovate in creating healthy longevity and flourishing societies of longer lives. We collaborate with public health scientists, educators, and systems to transform prevention across the life course that enables people to arrive at old age healthy and stay healthy, and to define the assets and capabilities of older age that can offer a foundation of societal

flourishing and a Third Demographic Dividend. We translate science into practice, systems, and policy solutions. Educational offerings include:

  • Columbia Mailman School Masters in Public Health Program: The Health of an Aging Society Certificate
  • Longevity Scholars & Global Internships and Training
  • Mailman School of Public Health Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and the Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)
  • Age Boom Academy Journalism Training

Additional Features of the Butler Columbia Aging Center

A unique feature of the Center is that it houses the International Longevity Center USA (ILC-USA). The ILC-USA is a member of the Global Alliance of ILCs devoted to the development of policies, awareness campaigns and interventions at the individual and societal level to best respond to population aging and to support successful longevity. This consortium known as the ILC Global Alliance includes representation in 17 countries around the world.

The Butler CAC served as the home of the International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics (IAGG), under leadership of President John W. Rowe.

It is also the home of the Aging Society Network, a consortium of 11 global thought leaders in aging and aging societies, under the direction of Dr. Rowe.

To learn about our events, please join our mailing list by sending a message to ColumbiaAgingCenter@cumc.columbia.edu.