New Map of Life Fellow, Intergenerational Relations
Advisor: Dr. Laura Carstensen

Dr. Claire Growney is a post-doctoral researcher in Prof. Laura Carstensen’s Life-span Development Lab at Stanford University. Claire earned a PhD in Psychology from North Carolina State University where she studied cognitive change and decision making throughout the life span. She pursued postdoctoral training at Washington University in St. Louis, researching the effects of emotion regulation and social relationships on well-being across the life span, when the opportunity rose to join Prof. Carstensen’s lab as a New Map of Life Fellow. She was drawn to the fellowship program because of the opportunity to take her ideas outside of the laboratory setting and contribute to research in real communities by adopting a whole life-span approach to research (as opposed to comparing older and younger adults). Claire especially relishes the opportunity to collaborate with and learn alongside fellows from other fields of research.

In her past work, Claire noticed that people’s social networks are more age-diverse than previously thought, with people interacting with people from other generations on daily basis. As a New Map of Life Fellow, Claire is examining ways in which intergenerational relationships contribute to well-being among people of different ages. She is excited to better understand the unique opportunities for perspective-taking and cognitive engagement offered by intergenerational exchanges. Claire is especially passionate about her research into how interacting with older adults may help children’s social-emotional development.

Knowing that today’s children are future centenarians is Claire’s biggest motivation for her work as a New Map of Life Fellow. She believes that having positive, meaningful interactions with older adults during one’s childhood will be fundamental in forming the aging attitudes of these future centenarians and instilling in them that they will play important roles in society throughout their long lives. Claire acknowledges the structural barriers preventing people from forming meaningful relationships across generations stemming from physical distance and perception of intergenerational competition over resources. Another challenge is fostering meaningful intergenerational interactions involving people living with cognitive impairments, who may not have the opportunities to share their lived experiences with younger generations and benefit from their love and care. Through her work, Claire hopes to overcome these challenges and demonstrate that when we include people of all generations in society and allow everyone can contribute or participate in their own way, the whole society benefits.