Science for Society: Projecting a Future with an Aging Population

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By 2050, the world population of adults ages 60 and older will double to 2.1 billion, according to the World Health Organization. Accompanying that trend will be a heightened demand for caregivers. 

Psychological researchers shared their findings on the societal impact of these trends during “Projecting a Future with an Aging Population,” an APS Science for Society webinar held May 15.  

Elsie Yan, a Hong Kong Polytechnic University professor and expert on gerontology issues, shared her research showing how physical and verbal aggression by residents in long-term care facilities leads to high staff turnover and shortages. She said researchers and policymakers should explore improved training in dementia care and mental health support for staff.  

Catherine Riffin, a Cornell University psychologist with expertise in medical gerontology, reported that more than half of adults who are caring for an older relative face significant physical, emotional, and financial hardship. The strain can lead to health consequences such as lowered immune function, cardiovascular disease, and sleep disturbances, she said. She advocated for addressing caregivers’ mental health problems during routine health care visits.  

Kuan-Hua Chen, a University of Nebraska neuroscientist who studies relationships between people with dementia and their family caregivers, emphasized that caregiving experiences aren’t always bad. Chen’s lab is investigating the benefits of addressing the emotional connectedness between care recipients and their caregivers.  

The speakers also discussed psychological aspects of elder abuse, home modifications designed to ease caregiving, and the importance of social engagement in the later stages of life. 


Head shot of Catherine Riffin

Catherine Riffin

Weill Cornell Medicine

Catherine Riffin is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Geriatrics & Palliative Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine. She received her PhD from Cornell University and completed her research fellowship at the Yale University School of Medicine. Her research falls at the intersection of family caregiving and clinical practice, with a specific focus on supporting caregivers in health care delivery.

Elsie Yan

Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Elsie Yan is a professor in the Department of Applied Social Sciences ath the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Her research interests include elder abuse in domestic and residential care settings, elder sexuality, and aging experience of LGB and caregiver stress.

Kuan-Hua Chen

University of Nebraska Medical Center

Kuan-Hua Chen is an Assistant Professor in Neurological Sciences at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. His research uses laboratory and real-world measures to examine changes in the brain and socioemotional functioning in persons with dementia, and how these changes affect health and well-being in their family/caregivers.