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50 Over 50

The 'Influentials' Who Are Changing Our Views on Aging

These advocates show us that age is just a number

Laura Carstensen, Ph.D., 58

RESEARCHER, Stanford University
As founding director of Stanford’s Center on Longevity, her studies have resulted in more than 100 scholarly articles about lifespan development. She's found that, as we grow older, we grow happier. Of course, she could have just asked. 

Courtesy Stanford News

Nancy Whitelaw, Ph.D., 65

ADVOCATE, National Council on Aging
When organizations want to know how they can really help seniors, they turn to Whitelaw, founding director of NCOA's Center for Healthy Aging. She helps communities help older people stay in the homes they love.

Courtesy National Council on Aging

John 'Jack' Rowe, M.D., 68

He retired as the head of Aetna in 2006, and has been campaigning for advanced practice nursing ever since. If he prevails, nurses will be able to perform many functions primary care docs do. Affordable quality care will become more available, he says.

Courtesy John Rowe

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Thomas Perls, M.D., 52

DIRECTOR, New England Centenarian Study 
In 1994, Perls began studying people who were 100-plus, figuring they (or their bodies) knew something the rest of us didn't. One finding: Nature plays genetic favorites. He and his team seek to learn why some people just don’t get “aging” diseases.

Rick Friedman/Corbis

Jo Ann Jenkins, 54

We see her right here in the AARP cafeteria! As head of our charitable arm, which serves more than 5 million vulnerable seniors a year, she helps struggling, low-income older Americans meet their basic needs for food, shelter and medical care.


Joseph Coughlin, 51

We'd like to imagine his lab as a top-secret  bunker, with Coughlin as “Q,” whipping up James Bond-like gadgets for old people. Guess what? With advances like automated cars and robot caregivers, our fantasy may not be far off the mark

Courtesy Joseph Coughlin

Marie-Therese Connolly, 55

Anyone accused of elder abuse doesn't want Connolly sitting across the table. A MacArthur “genius” grant winner, she has spent her career rooting out abusive caregivers, rescuing their victims, and getting perpetrators punished.

Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Bill Thomas, M.D., 53

FOUNDER, Eden Alternative
More than 17,000 Eden-trained associates and 300 Eden homes worldwide replace loneliness with companionship, helplessness with hope, and boredom with activities. Thomas' goal: to render traditional nursing homes obsolete. 

Marc Freedman, 54

In an age when “retirement” tends to mean leaving one job for another, Freedman's nonprofit helps people find encore careers, and his experience corps enlists older professionals to improve student literacy in disadvantaged schools.

Jonathan Alcorn/Bloomberg/Getty Images

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