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Kenneth Ferraro - 2018 Lu Ann Aday Award

Kenneth Ferraro

Kenneth Ferraro – 2018 Lu Ann Aday Award

Distinguished Lecture Video

Kenneth Ferraro is the Distinguished Professor of Sociology and the founding director of the Center on Aging and the Life Course at Purdue University.

Ferraro earned his PhD in sociology at the University of Akron and joined Purdue in 1990. He is the author of 120 peer-reviewed articles on health and aging, and his research has been supported by multiple grants from the National Institute on Aging. He is a fellow of the Gerontological Society of America and the former editor of the Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences.

In 2018, Ferraro published “The Gerontological Imagination: An Integrative Paradigm of Aging.” Considered the first book of its kind to identify intellectual common ground among different disciplines studying aging, reviewers have called it a “signal contribution to the field.” The book won the 2018 Richard Kalish Innovative Publication Award from the Gerontological Society of America.

While at Purdue, Ferraro served 15 months as interim head of the Department of Sociology and four years as a resident scientist with the National Archive of Computerized Data on Aging, part of the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research at the University of Michigan.

His mentorship of graduate students was recognized by the Gerontological Society of America with the 2011 Distinguished Mentor Award and by Purdue with the 2016 Provost's Award for Outstanding Graduate Mentor. In 2014, he received the Matilda White Riley Distinguished Scholar Award from the American Sociological Association.

Frontiers in the Science of Aging

Abstract

Recent breakthrough discoveries in the science of aging are transforming the way we think about growing older and are stimulating cross-disciplinary research to make the most effective use of the aging process.

In his talk, Ferraro will identify two notable discoveries:

  • Early origins of adult health — how exposures during childhood have long-term consequences on adult health.
  • Multidirectional change, including the possibility of reversing functional trajectories associated with growing older.

Both discoveries highlight the modifiability of the aging process and are core to the integrative paradigm he discusses in his book, “The Gerontological Imagination.”

Research Accomplishments

Ferraro is considered a pioneer in evidence-based research showing that misfortunes during childhood and adolescence substantially increase the risk of disease in later life, including heart disease and cancer. He also has theorized how social stratification unfolds over the life course. His cumulative inequality theory, which he has tested empirically, describes how developmental and demographic processes stratify life chances and choices.

Over the past decade, Ferraro and his collaborators have:

  • Provided compelling evidence that negative exposures during childhood are pluripotent on adult health, raising the risk of multiple diseases, including cancer, stroke and osteoarthritis.
  • Identified that the racial gap in health emerges early in life and persists, in part, due to differences in medical care during adulthood.
  • Developed cumulative inequality theory to explicate how social stratification unfolds over the life course and influences health.
  • Created an integrative paradigm for cross-disciplinary studies of aging, which are discussed in “The Gerontological Imagination.”

Evidence reveals that insults during childhood and adolescence substantially increase the risk of disease later in life. With support from the National Institute on Aging, Ferraro has shown the health consequences of early negative exposures, such as poverty and child abuse, and has demonstrated their influence decades later.

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