Illustrative image for Bioethics for Aging Societies: Informing Policy and Practice

Bioethics for Aging Societies: Informing Policy and Practice

Principal Investigator: Nancy Berlinger

Funder: Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust 

Population aging raises profound questions about how a society values the experiences of aging and caregiving. This 12-month project will support special events and new publications building on the October 2018 Hastings Center special report, What Makes a Good Life in Late Life? This report was the major product of a 2016-18 planning process funded by the Wilson Trust to identify bioethics research, policymaking, and public learning priorities arising from population aging and for aging societies such as the United States.

The focus of new work will be the challenge of unequal aging. Experiences of older adults differ vastly in the U.S. due to social determinants of health that include the role of wealth throughout life in shaping access to services and environments in late life. While bioethics has tended to focus on access to health care and on health financing, policy research suggests that reducing aging-related inequalities calls for attention to housing, the built environment, social spending, and the role of the private sector and of community members in planning and design decisions.

Activities will engage health policymakers; practitioners in fields such as community planning, housing, and urban design; experts in “age-friendly” initiatives, and involved citizens in ways to promote inclusion and equity for older adults and caregivers.

Public symposium: “Aging in (a) Place: Planning, Design & Spatial Justice in Aging Societies,” Harvard Graduate School of Design, October 18, 2019. The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies in partnership with The Hastings Center. Agenda and videos here

Nancy Berlinger, “With No Dementia Cure in Sight, It’s Time for Communities to Become Dementia Friendly.” STAT News, August 14, 2019.  Read here

Nancy Berlinger, “Choice Architecture,” Hastings Center Report, July 3, 2019. Abstract here

Nancy Berlinger and Mildred Z. Solomon, “The Ethics of Population Aging: Precarity, Justice, and Choice.” Health Affairs Blog, June 27, 2019. Read here

This project is made possible by a generous grant to The Hastings Center from The Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust as part of its visionary support for the Center’s research and public engagement on ethical challenges facing aging societies.

The Hastings Center has never shied away from the toughest ethical challenges faced by society.



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