Mission and History


No aspect of modern life in Western Industrialized Nations remains unaffected by the rapid expansion of knowledge, increasing life expectancies, and profound globalization that have become ubiquitous to contemporary existence. As economic, cultural, and social lives become increasingly more complex and intertwined, institutions as diverse as business, government, and higher education, in addition to individuals, face changing circumstances that must be addressed in innovative ways.

As more and more people reach old and very old age in good health, patterns of working, learning, and living need to change as well. Facilitating longer, healthy land productive lives will require sociocultural, political, and economic institutions to reconceptualize notions of workforce development, civic engagement, human resource allocation, as well as urban design to facilitate productivity, health and well being across the lifespan In a similar vein, the potential of individuals to forge new realms of meaning and activity during later life must be supported by these societal structures. It is the mission of the Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center to generate the knowledge necessary to inspire meaningful change on a social policy level, community level, and individual level. Top-level innovative research, scholarship, teaching/training, social policy advising and outreach activities will be the major means of accomplishing this goal.


The Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center (CAC) was established in 2013, with the recruitment of its founding Director, Ursula M. Staudinger, a distinguished international scholar and academic leader in the field of lifespan and aging research.

The CAC builds upon the foundation of the International Longevity Center (ILC), which was founded in 1990 by the world-renowned gerontologist and psychiatrist, Dr. Robert N. Butler, and has been housed at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health since 2011. The ILC was created to educate individuals on how to live longer, healthier, and more meaningful lives, as well as to advise the public on how to maximize the benefits of increasing longevity in modern society. Throughout its history, the ILC has been a celebrated source for helping individuals, corporations, foundations, and government leaders to navigate this unprecedented increase in longevity through original research, scientific workshops, educational publications, and corporate and government relations.

Under the late Dr. Butler's leadership, the New York-based ILC U.S. was long a part of a multinational consortium of ILCs in the U.S., Japan, Great Britain, France, Dominican Republic, India, South Africa, Argentina, the Netherlands, Israel, Czech Republic, Singapore, China, and Brasil. From the vantage point of their national experience, each of these ILCs studies how longer life expectancy and the growing proportion of older persons in a population impact the culture, the economy, and the social fabric, and advocates for improved societal policies for an aging world.

Honoring the wishes of Dr. Butler, and in keeping with his longstanding commitment and generosity to Columbia University, the mission, work, and the assets of the ILC became the foundation for the newly founded Columbia Aging Center, anchored at the Mailman School of Public Health. Dr. Linda P. Fried (Dean of the Mailman School of Public Health) and Dr. John W. Rowe, two eminent aging scholars with great vision, played a central role in this transformation. The ILC and its liason with the Global Alliance of ILCs around the world will form the core of the knowledge transfer, advocacy, and outreach work of the Columbia Aging Center.