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KU Leuven honours five researchers for their contributions to the science of ageing

16/05/2012 KU Leuven honours five researchers for their contributions to the science of ageing

As part of its Patron Saint's Day celebrations, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium) confers a number of honorary doctorates in recognition of extraordinary academic, social, or cultural contributions.

On February 2, the university presented honorary doctorates to Laura Carstensen, John Clarkson, Roger Coleman, John Myles and Mary Tinetti for their important contributions to research on ageing.

Laura L. Carstensen, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, is the director and co-founder of the Stanford Center on Longevity, an interdisciplinary centre that studies how quality of life at all ages – including advanced age – can be improved. "She has made a fundamental contribution to the understanding of the psychological mechanisms behind ageing," say nominators Mathieu Vandenbulcke and Ralf Krampe." Traditionally, ageing has been seen as a process of loss and decay, but Carstensen changed that perception. She tells a positive story and shows that ageing is paired with an improvement in social and emotional skills”. 

Roger Coleman is Professor Emeritus in Inclusive Design at London’s Royal College of Art. In 1994, he established a European network specialised in design and ageing. John Clarkson is Professor of Engineering Design and Director of the Cambridge Engineering Design Centre, and has extensive experience in the field of product development. Both joined forces, including for the research project i~design, to focus on the development of an ‘inclusive design’ concept.

“The main reasons for applauding these two researchers is their social importance, their pioneering role and the bridges they built between various disciplines,” says nominator Ann Heylighen. “They emphasise the value of age and disability for innovation, and send a strong message to young people: our ageing society, and the challenges associated with it, is not something that concerns policy makers and social services specialists alone.”

John Myles is Professor of Sociology at the Department of Sociology and the School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Toronto. "He is one of the most eminent and creative Canadian sociologists," says Jos Berghman, Myles' nominator. "His first book, Old Age in the Welfare State (1984), was an instant classic in comparative studies of the welfare state. His later work on ageing and retirement protection reverberated in social policy circles."

Mary Tinetti, Gladys Phillips Crofoot Professor of Medicine (Geriatrics) and Epidemiology (Chronic Diseases) and of Public Health at Yale University and head of the Yale Program on Aging, has developed efficient and cost-effective strategies – crucial for many elderly people – to reduce the risk of falling. Rather than an inevitable consequence of ageing, she has shown that falls are a preventable problem. Tinetti is also a pioneer in research on bruising, contusions and other injuries caused by falls.

"Tinetti is one of the founders of a sophisticated approach to the care and treatment of elderly people with complex health problems. Awarding her an honorary degree goes a long way in acknowledging the problem of falls as a serious social issue, one which will only become more pressing as society ages and which urgently requires increased government funding", says Tinetti's nominators, Steven Boonen and Koen Milisen.