Karl Pillemer
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 Professor in the Department of Psychology, Professor of Gerontology in Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine, and Senior Associate Dean for Research and Outreach in the College of Human Ecology. Pillemer also directs the Cornell Legacy Project (http://legacyproject.human.cornell.edu/) and is author of the book 30 Lessons for Living (http://legacyproject.human.cornell.edu/the-book/). 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. He has a strong theoretical and empirical interest in life course transitions and the effects they have on family relationships. A major program of research is on intergenerational relations in later life, with a focus on determinants and consequences of the quality of adult child - older parent relationships. Dr. Pillemer has conducteda large-scale study of this issue, with funding from the National Institute on Aging, which focuses on within-family differences in parent-child relations in later life and on ambivalence in intergenerational relations among adults. He is currently examining the causes and consequences of estrangement in families. A second major program of research focuses on the nature and dynamics of family caregiving for impaired older people, which he has been carrying out over the past two decades with funding from the National Institutes of Health and other sources. A third area is in long-term care for the elderly, with a focus on the relationships between family members of residents with staff in long-term care facilities. Fourth, Dr. Pillemer has a long-term program of research on conflict and abuse in families of the aged, including several related studies of the domestic and institutional abuse of older persons. Finally, he is actively involved in intervention research and in policy analysis related to aging and health care, with an emphasis on evidence-based methods of developing a competent, caring long-term care workforce. 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.

Pillemer, K., Czaja, S. J., & Reid, M. C. (In press). Caring for chronically ill older adults: A view over the last seventy-five years. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B.

 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.

Burnes, D., Lachs, M. S., Burnette, D., & Pillemer, K. (2019). Varying appraisals of elder mistreatment among victims: Findings from a population-based study. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, 74, 881-890. 

Burnes, D., Breckman, R., Henderson, C. R., Lachs, M. S., Pillemer, K. (2019). Utilization of formal support services for elder abuse: Do informal supporters make a difference? The Gerontologist, 59, 619–624.

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

Pillemer K, Shultz L, Cope MT, Meador R, Henderson CR Jr., (2018). Partners in Care in Assisted Living: Fostering Cooperative Communication Between Families and Staff. Seniors Housing & Care Journal, 26(1), 3-15.

Teresi JA, Ramírez M, Fulmer T, Ellis J, Silver S, Kong J, Eimicke JP, Boratgis G, Meador R, Lachs MS, Pillemer K (2018). Resident-to-Resident Mistreatment: Evaluation of a Staff Training Program in the Reduction of Falls and Injuries. Journal of Gerontological Nursing, 44(6), 15-23. doi: 10.3928/00989134-20180326-01.

Pillemer, K., Suitor, J. J., Riffin, C., & Gilligan, M. (2017). Adult children’s problems and mother’s well-being: Does parental favoritism matter?. Research on Aging, 39, 375-395.

Pillemer, K., and Filiberto, D. (2017). Mobilizing older people to address climate change. Public Policy and Aging Report, 27: 18-21. [Epub before print]  doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/ppar/prw030  

Pillemer, K., Riffin, C., Suitor, J. J., Peng, S., Reid, M. C.  (2017). The impact of older parents’ pain symptoms on adult children. Pain Medicine. [epub before print] doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/pm/pnw320.

Pillemer, K., Burnes, D., Riffin, C., & Lachs, M. S. (2016). Elder abuse: Global situation, risk factors, and prevention strategies. The Gerontologist56, S194-S205. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnw004.

Pillemer, K., Wells, N. M., Meador, Rhoda H., Schultz, L., Henderson, Jr., C. R., & Cope, M. T. (2016). Engaging older adults in environmental volunteerism: The Retirees in Service to the Environment (RISE) program, The Gerontologist. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnv693. [Epub ahead of print].

Lachs, M. S., Teresi, J. A.,…& Pillemer, K. (2016) The prevalence of resident-to-resident elder mistreatment in nursing homes. Annals of Internal Medicine, 165: 229-236. doi:10.7326/M15-1209

Lachs, M., & Pillemer, K. (2015). Elder abuse. New England Journal of Medicine, 373: 1947-1956.

Pillemer, K., Chen, E. K., Riffin, C., Prigerson, H., Schultz, L., & Reid, M. C. (2015). Practice-Based Research Priorities for Palliative Care: Results From a Research-to-Practice Consensus Workshop. American Journal of Public Health, 105: 2237-2244.

Reid, M. C., Eccleston, C., & Pillemer, K. (2015). Management of chronic pain in older adults. British Medical Journal. Epub before print, DOI: 10.1136/bmj.h532

Pillemer, K., Connolly, M.T., Breckman, R., Spreng, R.N., & Lachs, M.S. (2015). Elder mistreatment: Priorities for consideration by the White House Conference on Aging. The Gerontologist, (epub ahead-of-print), doi: 10.1093/geront/gnu180

Pillemer, K., & Suitor, J. J. (2014). Who provides care? A prospective study of caregiving among adult siblings. The Gerontologist54, 589-598.>

Sabir, Myra and Karl Pillemer. (2014). An intensely sympathetic awareness: Experiential similarity and cultural norms as means for gaining older African Americans' trust of scientific research. Journal of Aging Studies, 29, 142-149.

Pillemer, Karl. (2012). 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans. New York: Viking/Penguin.

Pillemer, Karl, Emily K. Chen, Kimberly S. Van Haitsma, Jeanne Teresi, Mildred Ramirez, Stephanie Silver, Gail Sukha, and Mark S. Lachs. (2012). “Resident-to-Resident Aggression in Nursing Homes: Results from a Qualitative Event Reconstruction Study.”The Gerontologist, 24: 92-112.

Pillemer, Karl, Rhoda H. Meador, Jeanne A. Teresi, Charles R. Henderson Jr., Emily K.Chen, Mark S. Lachs, Gabriel Boratgis, Stephanie Silver, and Joseph P. Eimicke. (2012). “Effects of Electronic Health Information Technology Implementation on Nursing Home Resident Outcomes.” Journal of Aging and Health. 24, 92-112.

Pillemer, Karl, Christin L. Munsch, Thomas Fuller-Rowell, Catherine Riffin, J. Jill Suitor. (2012). “Ambivalence toward Adult Children: Differences between Mothers and Fathers.” Journal of Marriage and Family, 74, 1101 – 1113.

Pillemer, Karl, J. Jill Suitor, Seth Pardo, and Charles Henderson, Jr. (2010). “Mothers’ Differentiation and Depressive Symptoms among Adult Children.” Journal of Marriage and Family, 72, 333-345.

Pillemer, Karl, Thomas E. Fuller-Rowell, Cary Reid, and Nancy Wells. (2010). “Environmental Volunteering and Health Outcomes over a Twenty-Year Period.” The Gerontologist, 50:594-602.

Past Chair, Behavioral Sciences Section, Gerontological Society of America

Consultante, World Health Organization



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. He is the co-Principal Investigator of a center grant funded by the National Institute on Aging: The Cornell Institute for Translational Research on Aging (CITRA), one of ten Edward 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 envrionmental sustainability. He has developed and evaluated the Retiree Environmental Stewards 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. In his current role as Senior Associate Dean for Research and Outreach, he is working to promote translational research models and evidence-based practice in the College of Human Ecology.

Senior Associate Dean for Research and Outreach, 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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