Karl Pillemer, Ph.D., is one of America’s leading family sociologists and researchers on aging. Ten years ago, he realized that he had spent most of his career focusing on the problems of older people — and treating older people as problems.
He explains: “I had been studying issues like disability, chronic pain, and dementia. It suddenly hit me that I needed to focus on older people as critically important sources of wisdom and insight. So I went on a decade-long quest to find out what older people know about living happier and more fulfilling lives that the rest of us don’t, and to share their advice with younger people.”
Dr. Pillemer created the Cornell Legacy Project, which is devoted to surveying thousands of older Americans about their lessons for living. His first book, "30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans," struck a chord with readers, who loved the sage advice and great stories from extraordinary older Americans who shared what they wish they had known when they were starting out. His second book focuses on the most talked-about parts of "30 Lessons for Living" — love and marriage. "30 Lessons for Loving: Advice from the Wisest Americans on Love, Relationships, and Marriage, will be published by Hudson Street".
Dr. Pillemer is Professor of Human Development at Cornell University and Professor of Gerontology in Medicine at the Weill Cornell Medical College. He is also the founder and Director of the Cornell Institute for Translational Research on Aging, a center that conducts research and develops programs to improve the quality of life for older people. Dr. Pillemer has authored more than 100 scientific publications, is a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America, and has served in leadership roles in a number of scientific organizations. He is a recipient of the Gerontological Society’s Lawton Award, a distinguished honor that recognizes a significant contribution in gerontology.
Throughout his career, Dr. Pillemer’s research has focused on how family relationships develop and change throughout their members’ lives. His studies have examined issues like the causes of marital happiness and conflict, how parents get along with their adult children, and the effects of illness and caregiving on families. Dr. Pillemer’s research takes place in the real world of families and professionals who work with them. He has created many model programs designed to help address the problems of families, such as projects that reduce the burden and stress of family caregivers, and developing prevention programs for reducing family conflict.
Dr. Pillemer counts among his greatest accomplishments his work translating research findings to non-academics. He has published ten books for non-academic audiences. He has created the Evidence-Based Living web site, which provides non-technical reports on research for lay people. Dr. Pillemer speaks widely throughout the U. S. and internationally on issues of successful aging, family relationships, and elder care, among other topics.
He has been interviewed by The New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, PBS Newshour, Marketwatch, AARP Radio, and many other major media outlets.
Karl Pillemer lives with his family in Ithaca, New York.