Demography of Aging Center

Funded Projects

The Center for Health and Wellbeing is home to a Demography of Aging Center, funded by the National Institute of Aging. The center has funded 30 pilot projects to date. Active projects include the following:

Scarcity, Cognitive Function, and Stress

Eldar ShafirPI: Eldar Shafir, Princeton University
This project investigates central aspects of the psychology of scarcity, a novel theoretical framework that looks at some of the psychological challenges faced by people living in poverty, and the behavioral patterns that ensue. Perhaps the defining property of being poor is that money is scarce; there is not enough of it to meet the demands imposed by daily life. One important corollary of monetary scarcity is the persistent need to think about tradeoffs: to compute the budgetary consequences of even small financial decisions (“If I purchase X, what will I not be able to purchase instead?”). This, we posit, yields a demanding and ever-present set of cognitive challenges that are encountered considerably less frequently in the lives of those who are financially more comfortable. The chronic challenges of tradeoff thinking, we suggest, may help explain the greater planning and decision difficulties, including health and financial troubles, so frequently exhibited by the poor, particularly as they age.

An Exploratory Study of the Occurrence of Pharmaceutical-Induced Aging Symptoms in the United States and in Brazil

Joao BiehlPI: João Biehl, Princeton University
This study is a preliminary assessment of how medical professionals and patients identify and treat pharmaceutically-induced aging symptoms in Brazil.   Brazil has one of the highest frequencies of drug-induced adverse symptoms in the world.   This study is divided in two parts: 1) Identify and interview five to ten health professionals who are currently working in Gerontology and Neurology and/or medical scientists who are carrying out studies on the field of pharmaceutically-induced aging conditions in the city of Porto Alegre, the capital of the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul . The interviews will inquire about the prevalence and clinical forms of pharmaceutically-induced aging symptoms in their routine practices and what challenges these conditions pose for diagnosis and treatment. 2) With the assistance of the health professionals, identify and interview ten adult patients who would be willing to participate in the study. The interviews will inquire about their life history and medical trajectories, aiming to assess the impact that these conditions have on their functionality and quality of life.

Assays of Immune and Inflammatory Markers in SEBAS

Noreen GoldmanPI: Noreen Goldman, Princeton University
This pilot project is an expansion of existing work being conducted by Dr. Goldman. For the past 15 years, Dr. Goldman and her colleague Dr. Maxine Weinstein (Georgetown University) have been directing a national survey operation in Taiwan under the auspices of the Bureau of Health Promotion in Taiwan, with funding from NIA.

The objective of this survey, known as the Social Environment and Biomarkers of Aging Study (SEBAS), has been to explore linkages between the social environment and physical and mental health.   SEBAS is based on a random subsample of the Taiwan Longitudinal Survey of Aging (TLSA), a national survey that includes adults approximately age 50 and older. Together with TLSA, the SEBAS data comprise extensive household interviews every three or four years (beginning in 1989 and going through 2011), two rounds of biomarker and genetic measures and information from clinical exams (2000 and 2006), and links with death certificates.

Non-invasive reproductive steroid hormone indicators of male and female aging in a highly social wild primate model: estrogens in males and testosterone in females

Jeanne AltmannPI: Jeanne Altmann, Princeton University 
Professor Altmann and colleagues seek to expand investigations of the physiology of aging to include novel studies of estrogens in males and testosterone in females. Estrogens and testosterone are present in both males and females but testosterone at higher levels in males than females and estrogens exhibit the opposite sex difference. Age changes in concentrations of the more common reproductive hormone found in each sex are well documented in humans. In contrast, the patterns in each sex for the less common reproductive hormones during aging are not well understood and the functional consequences of age changes are even less so. This project seeks to further validate noninvasive measurement of these hormones and exploration of their patterns during aging in a wild primate model using fecal samples.