Long life begins in the classroom, in a course developed by the Stanford Center on Longevity.

Stanford students learn about the implications of longer lives for themselves and for societies in the Longevity course. The course, taught during the winter quarter, explores myths and misconceptions surrounding the aging process, and provides students with an informed grasp of the conceptual issues, empirical findings and current controversies in the field.

The course has three central aims:

– Help students understand why, from a biological/biomedical perspective, the population is aging and what to expect in the coming decades. Will current trends continue? How long can future generations expect to live? How are lifestyles, families and work likely to change?

– Provide students with a more realistic vision of their own futures so they can make informed life choices and plans.

– Educate future generations of citizens, who will live out their lives in societies where older people outnumber children and who will have a central hand in shaping the consequences of these unprecedented changes.

Lectures address longevity from a variety of disciplines and perspectives, including such topics as “aging and engineering,” “death and dying” and the economic implications of health care and Social Security.

Center on Longevity Director Laura Carstensen PhD and Deputy Director Tom Rando MD, PhD co-teach the course. By adopting a multidisciplinary approach, Carstensen, a psychologist and life-span developmentalist, Rando, a neurologist and biogerontologist, and distinguished guest lecturers help students understand new challenges to health care, financial markets, families, work and politics as they relate to aging and longevity.

More than 120 students took the course in 2009-2010. In addition to Center faculty affiliates and staff, lecturers included Marc Freedman, founder and CEO of Civic Ventures who spearheaded the creation of Experience Corps and the Purpose Prize, and John M. (Jack) Rowe MD, an expert on health care economics and healthy aging, professor of health policy and management at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and former CEO of Aetna Inc.

Other Center courses include an undergraduate introductory seminar on life-span development and an undergraduate student practicum.