CORVALLIS, Ore. - Oregon State University faculty from the College of Health and Human Sciences will be in Dallas, Texas, from Nov. 16 to 20 for the 59th-annual Scientific Meeting of The Gerontological Society of America.

OSU professors will speak on topics ranging from age-related changes in physical and cognitive functioning to social support and goal setting in later life. OSU also is hosting a symposium called "Family Studies and the Gerontological Imagination" at the conference on Nov 18 that features all 10 of the Petersen Visiting Scholar Award Winners from the past decade.

The Peterson award is given annually by OSU's Department of Human Development and Family Sciences to a researcher conducting significant work in areas where gerontology and family studies intersect. "These 10 people are not ordinary gerontologists, they are extraordinary," said OSU professor Alexis Walker, who will introduce the Petersen Scholars in Dallas.

Funded by a gift from Jo Anne Leonard Petersen, the Petersen Visiting Scholar Award supports each year's winner spending 10 weeks at OSU doing research, giving public speeches and meeting with faculty and students.

At the symposium in Dallas, Walker said all 10 scholars will speak on some of their areas of research and be recognized at a reception to be held in their honor. The 10 scholars are:

  • Sarah H. Matthews (1997 - 1998), professor and chair of Sociology, Cleveland State University. Matthews will make the case that descriptive research on family networks is critical for advancing understanding of families and aging. She will draw examples from research on the geographical dispersion of family members, long-term effects of divorce and remarriage and differences across generations in familiarity with electronic communication.
  • Richard Schulz (1998 - 1999), professor of Psychiatry and director of the Center for Social and Urban Research, University of Pittsburgh. Schulz will describe new directions for family caregiving research, including translating research trials into community-level interventions, projecting the future of baby boomers as caregivers and care recipients, technological innovations to assist and enhance caregiving and suffering and compassion in caregiving.
  • Rosemary Blieszner (1999 - 2000), Alumni Distinguished Professor of Human Development and Faculty Affiliate, Center for Gerontology, Virginia Polytechnic and State University. Blieszner will show how recent developments in both theory and method are enabling family gerontologists to move from a focus on individuals to a focus on families.
  • Ingrid A. Connidis (2000 - 2001), professor of Sociology and member of the Aging and Health Research Center, University of Western Ontario, Canada. Connidis will argue that thinking across disciplines (for example, both sociology and family studies) is necessary for understanding interpersonal relations in middle and later life.
  • Stephen J. Cutler (2001 - 2002), professor of Sociology and Bishop Robert F. Joyce Distinguished University Professor of Gerontology, University of Vermont. Cutler will highlight the increasingly important role of genetics in family dynamics and in the well-being of family members. He will illustrate his argument by drawing on findings from his study of personal concerns individuals have about developing dementia.
  • Judith C. Barker (2002 - 2003), professor in Residence, Anthropology, History and Social Medicine, and faculty associate, Institute for Health and Aging; University of California--San Francisco. Barker will draw attention to the globalized context of aging, using examples from her research on how mildly impaired older individuals interface with family and friends, neighborhoods, transportation, stores, banks and clinics, as well as health and welfare services such as Medicare.
  • Eleanor Palo Stoller (2003 - 2004), research professor of Sociology, Wake Forest University. Stoller will explore the dynamics of feelings of kinship among people who share an ethnic heritage. She will show how these ties can generate informal support among retired older adults who don't have family members nearby.
  • Victor G. Cicirelli (2004 - 2005), professor of Psychological Sciences, Purdue University. Cicirelli will focus on the baby boom generation. Because baby boomers have larger numbers of siblings and more half- and step-siblings, less stable marriages, and relatively fewer children than members of their parents' generation, they may need to assume a greater caregiving role in their own old age.
  • Judith Treas (2006 - 2007), professor of Sociology and director of the Demographic and Social Analysis Program, University of California at Irvine. Treas will focus on the population of Americans aged 65 and older that is foreign-born. Her talk will highlight the significance of intergenerational relations for coping with major life transitions.
  • Katherine R. Allen (2005 - 2006), professor of Human Development and Faculty Affiliate at the Center for Gerontology, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Allen will serve as discussant at the Symposium, drawing common themes and identifying an emerging research agenda for family gerontology in the context of rapid social change.

Collectively, the Peterson scholars illustrate something special about research in Corvallis on aging issues. "OSU is an exciting place to study gerontology," said Walker. "We just have a huge number of people, across disciplines, studying aging issues, and now we have our Center for Healthy Aging Research. It's hard to imagine a better group of people to engage in this conversation about our aging population."

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Alexis Walker,