Karl Pillemer
Hazel E. Reed Professor in the Department of Psychology, Professor of Gerontology in Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine
Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research

1300 MVR Hall



Dr. Karl Pillemer is the Hazel E. Reed Human Development Professor in the Department of Psychology, Professor of Gerontology in Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine, and founding Director of the Cornell Institute for Translational Research on Aging. Pillemer also directs the Cornell Legacy Project and is author of the book 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans. His major interests center on human development over the life course, with a special emphasis on family and social relationships in middle age and beyond. A major program of research is on intergenerational relations in later life, with a focus on  the quality of adult child - older parent relationships. A current project focuses on the causes and consequences of family estrangement, which resulted in the book Fault Lines: Fractured Families and How to Mend Them. Pillemer also has a career-long interest in the nature and dynamics of family caregiving for impaired older people, with curent projects exploring the role of chronic pain in caregiving situations. Another area of work is on long-term care for older persons, with a focus on the Interventions to improve care by staff.. Pillemer has a long-term program of research on conflict and abuse in families of the aged, including manystudies of the domestic and institutional abuse of older persons. Finally, he has expanded his focus on protecting vulnerable older persons to the issue of effects of climate change on older people. Pillemer recently created the Aging and Climate Change Clearinghouse, which serves as a hub for information on this topic.. His extension and outreach work involves translational research, exploring ways to speed the transfer of findings from basic research into scientifically tested interventions.

Pillemer's current research projects span his interests in aging and the family, long-term and palliative care, developing effective models for translational research, and studies of elder wisdom. This research has been funded by the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute for Nursing Research, the National Institute of Mental Health, and a variety of foundation sources. Ongoing studies include the following:

1) The Family Contact Study. This program of research includes several interrelated studies of estrangement and reconciliation in families. One component is the largest in-depth interview study ever conducted of estranged individuals (including those who have and have not reconciled). Additional studies included a national survey of 1250 individuals to establish prevalence and correlated of estrangement and a national survey of family therapists regarding their views about causes and treatment of family estrangement.

2) Resident-to-Resident Elder Mistreatment in Long-Term Care (NIA, in collaboration with Mark S. Lachs, Weill Cornell Medical College and Jeanne Teresi, Coliumbia University). We conducted the first large scale prevalence and risk factor study of aggression and violence among nursing home residents and are now conducting a pragmatic trial of an intervntion to reduce resident-to-resident aggression in assisted living.

3) Non-pharmalcological Interventions for Pain (NIA, NINR, in collaboration with M. Carrington Reid, Weill Cornell Medical College) applies principles of community-based participatory research to develop more effective interventions for older persons dealing with pain.

4) Family-Staff Relations in Elder Care (American Seniors Housing Association University Research Grant). This study tested and is disseminating an intervention to improve cooperation and communication between staff and family members in various senior living settings. 

5) The Program on Aging and the Environment (USDA) involves research and intervention studies of environmental civic engagement and volunteering by older persons.

6) The Cornell Legacy Project (USDA; Morganfoundation) collects data from older persons regarding their views of important lessons they have learned over the life course.

7) The Within-Family Differences Study I & 2 (NIA, in collaboration with J. Jill Suitor, Purdue University where the WFDS is housed) which followed 550 mothers over the age of 65 and their adult Children over a 7-year period, examining the causes and consequences of within-family differentiation in later life. Analyses have focused on parental favoritism, differential helping to and by offspring, caregiver selection, and ambivalent parent-adult child relationships, among other topics. 

8) An overarching interest is in translational research, studying methods and techniques of moving research findings more swiftly into application for practice and policy Pillemer is also the co-Principal Investigator of an NIA-funded Roybal Center, which conducts research on and dissemination of methods of improving research translation.

I engage undergraduate and graduate students in my research on aging in a variety of ways, providing opportunities to engage in all phases of research projects. This kind of hands-on involvement provides valuable research skills and allows students to experience being part of a project team. I sponsor the Aging Dissemination Lab, in which students participate in translational and intervention research projects related to improving the care and quality of life of older people.

Pillemer K, Teresi JA, Ramirez M, et al. (2024). Estimated prevalence of resident-to-resident aggression in assisted living. JAMA Network Open, ;7(5):e249668. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2024.9668

Turner, S. G., Robinson, J. R., Pillemer, K. A., & Reid, M. C. (2024). Prevalence estimates of arthritis and activity-limiting pain among family caregivers to older adults. The Gerontologist, 64(5), gnad124.

Hancock, D., & Pillemer, K. (2023). Global review of elder mistreatment research: A narrative review. GeroPsych: The Journal of Gerontopsychology and Geriatric Psychiatry, 36(3).

Pillemer, K., Nolte, J., Schultz, L., Yau, H., Henderson Jr, C. R., Cope, M. T., & Baschiera, B. (2022). The benefits of intergenerational wisdom-sharing: A randomized controlled study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(7), 4010.

Pillemer, K., Nolte, J., & Cope, M. T. (2022). Promoting climate change activism among older people. Generations, 46(2), 1-16.

Yang, Y, Reid, M. C., Grol-Prokopczyk, H., and Pillemer, K. (2022). Racial-ethnic disparities in pain intensity and interference among middle-aged and older U.S. adults. The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, 77, 74-81, https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/glab207

Riffin C, Patrick K, Lin SL, Carrington Reid M, Herr K, Pillemer K. (2022). Caregiver-provider communication about pain in persons with dementia. Dementia. 21, 270-286. doi: 10.1177/14713012211036868.

Pillemer, K., Burnes, D., Hancock, D., Eckenrode, J., Rosen, T., MacNeil, A., Lachs, M. S. (2021). Lack of association of elder mistreatment with mortality. The Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, Series A. https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/glab348

Pillemer, K. A., Silver, S., Ramirez, M., Long, J., Eimicke, J. P., Boratgis, G. D., Meador, R., Schultz, L., Lachs, M. S., Nolte, J., Chen, E. K., & Teresi, J. A. (2021). Factors associated with resident-to-resident elder mistreatment in nursing homes. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. https://doi.org/10.1111/jgs.17622

Burnes, D., Sheppard, C., Henderson, C. R., Wassel,, Charles R. Henderson, Jr., Wassel, M., Cope, R., Barber, C., Pillemer, K. (2019). Interventions to reduce ageism against older adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis. American Journal of Public Health, 109, e1-e9.

 Pillemer, K., Losada, A., & Suitor, J. J. (2019). Ambivalence, families, and care. International Journal of Care and Caring, 3, 9-22.

Pillemer, K.  & Gilligan, M.. (2018). Translating basic research on the aging family to caregiving intervention: The case of within-family differences, Innovation in Aging, 2,  [epub before print] doi:10.1093/geroni/igx035


Co-Convenor, Special Interest Group on Aging and Climate Change, Gerontological Society of America.

Past Chair, Behavioral Sciences Section, Gerontological Society of America

Invited Member, Expert Forum, Global Network on Long-term care for Older People, World Health Organization,

Consultant, World Health Organization

Program Co-Chair, Annual Meeting, Gerontological Society of America


Pillemer's extension program is in the area of aging and life course development. An overarching interest is promoting social integration in later life, including intervention programs to reduce social isolation and increase social engagement among older persons. For 25 years he served as Principal Investigator of a center grant funded by the National Institute on Aging: The Cornell Institute for Translational Research on Aging (CITRA), one theEdward R. Roybal Centers nationwide. CITRA has created a community-based research partnership with major elder service providers in New York City. Through a series of "research to practice consensus workshops," an innovative pilot study grant program that funds research partnerships with community agencies, and other related programs, CITRA brings Cornell research resources to the NYC community.  A new focus is developing extension and outreach programs based on his research program on elder wisdom, including an intergenerational program involving high school students in group interview projects with elders. Another program area is on pain and pain management in later life. His extension efforts also focus on improving the quality of care provided by staff in nursing homes.  His group has developed, evaluated, and are disseminating Partners in Caregiving, funded by NIA and other sources. This evidence-based program improves cooperation and communication between families and staff in nursing homes. Other products include publications for the nursing home industry that provide detailed practical guidance for upgrading the job conditions of paraprofessionals. A key component of his extension work is developing programs that link the growing older population to issues of climate change He has developed and evaluated the Retirees in Service to the Environment program, in which older adults learn about key environmental issues and take part in leadership training, enabling them to be highly effective volunteers in environmental organizations.Pillemer's team also sponsors the Aging and Climate Change Clearinghouse, which provides information on the topic to researchers, organizations, and older adults.

Dean's Fellow for Research Development, College of Human Ecology

Director, Cornell Institute for Translational Research on Aging

1985, Ph.D., Sociology, Brandeis University

1981, M.A., Sociology, Brandeis University

1977, B.A., Sociology, Boston University

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