The mission of the University of Wisconsin–Madison Institute on Aging is to promote the health and well-being of the adult and aging populations in our local community, state, and society at large through excellence in multidisciplinary research, education, and outreach. Underscoring the salience of this mission is the demographic context: the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population is aging adults.
Enacting Our Vision
Through Multidisciplinary Research: we advance knowledge of aging by connecting sociodemographic, psychosocial, and neurobiological factors that jointly define trajectories of health and illness across the decades of adult life. The primary forum for this integrative work is MIDUS (Midlife in the U.S.), a national longitudinal study of more than 11,000 U.S. adults that we have been following for nearly three decades. Data from MIDUS are publicly available and have led to more than 1,200 scientific publications across diverse fields.
Among the domains we integrate are the following:
- demographic factors (e.g., age, gender, race, education, income)
- neurobiological and genomic factors (e.g., brain circuitry, biomarkers, gene expression)
- psychological factors (e.g., emotion, cognition, personality, well-being)
- social factors (e.g., family ties, friendships, discrimination)
- life experiences (e.g., daily stress at work and at home, caregiving)
- health behaviors (e.g., exercise, smoking, substance abuse)
Our work has shown that these factors combine to reveal both positive and negative tales about aging in America. Some face serious emotional or physical health issues, some suffer from the enormous impact of inequality, still others remain vital and vibrant well into later life. Our research advances knowledge of how these factors combine to nurture or undermine flourishing from early adulthood through midlife into old age.
Through Multidisciplinary Education: we contribute to undergraduate education in aging via cutting-edge advances from MIDUS about factors that nurture or undermine healthy aging; we also provide novel research opportunities for graduate students across the nation who are training to become the next generation of multidisciplinary scientists. Over 200 graduate degrees have been completed using MIDUS data.
Through Engaging Outreach Activities: we communicate the latest knowledge about healthy and unhealthy aging to the general public through newsletters, online resources, and the Annual Institute on Aging Colloquium, which draws a full-capacity crowd from the community and the campus.