Best places to study the anthropology of aging, 2022 edition

AAGE posted its first list of places to study the anthropology of aging in 2014, and followed this with another in 2018. Following our pattern, we’re now proud to bring you our third edition of the directory, compiled with the help of AAGE members. The situation has not changed much in those four years, and students interested in aging have to do quite a lot of work to slowly sift through the profiles of faculty pages in anthropology, gerontology, human development and other fields to find people who have the skills and background to guide an advanced degree. Even when there are individuals, the program they are in might not be the best environment for an anthropologist. Here, we want to pool some of our knowledge to recommend some top picks for academic institutions for studying anthropology and aging. All have at least one anthropologist who does research on aging in the faculty, but some, like University of Iowa, Wayne State, and University of Copenhagen have several. They are listed by region in alphabetical order, and not ranked.

If we missed your top pick, please leave a note in the comments section!

The Americas

Gilbrea Centre for Studies in Aging at McMaster University (Social Sciences)

Many of the faculty are located in the Department of Health, Aging and Social Sciences, great place to get an interdisciplinary education with an applied and policy related focus. Variety of pathways from BA in Aging and Society to a PhD in Social Gerontology. Anthro department with strong health focus.

California State University Long Beach, Department of Human Development

CSULB’s Human Development Progam is unique for its concentration of anthropologists, including Claudia Huang, who currently leads the Aging and Life Course Interest Group of AAA. Other anthropologists who focus on various aspects of the life course and intergenerational relationships include Christine Ouardani, Lauren Heidbrink, Heather Rae-Espinoza. CSULB as has a brand new Center for Successful Aging headed by AAGE past-president Iveris Martinez. Prof. Martinez is also a principal investigator on a National Institute on Aging grant to address Alzheimer’s disease disparities in utilization of support services among Latino family caregivers.

Purdue University, Anthropology

Sherri Briller (past President of SfAA and AAGE) and Amanda Veile (evolutionary anthropology) are Anthropology affiliated members of the Center on Aging and the Life Course, which offers various options for graduate degrees related to aging, including a unique ‘dual-title’ PhD in ‘Anthropology and Gerontology.’

UMBC Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Public Health

The UMBC Center for Aging Studies is based in the Dept. of Sociology and Anthropology, which works in conjunction with the graduate program in Gerontology. The UMBC program has a focus on policy and applied research, and students will benefit from the interdisciplinarity and variety of qualitative and quantitative approaches. Faculty have broad expertise in aging, including anthropology (Chard) Sociology (Eckert, Schumacher, Yamashita) and Policy (Wallace).

University of Iowa, Anthropology

Between the specialization in medical anthropology and the close connection to research at the Iowa City VA Hospital, University of Iowa has attracted a surprising concentration of cultural anthropologists with expertise in aging. Top scholars like Elana Buch, as well as AAGE Presidents Aaron Seaman and Samantha Solimeo are all based at Iowa, giving anthropology a strong tie to other departments and research at the VA. Iowa also offers a Graduate Certificate in Aging and Longevity Studies.

University of Michigan Social Work and Social Science joint PhD program

While the Anthropology department does not have a specialization in aging, this combined program allows PhD students to combine with U of M’s excellent research in social work, with expertise on topics like gender, poverty, addiction.

UC San Francisco Joint UC Berkeley medical anthropology program (PhD)

This unique program, co-founded by anthropologist Margaret Clark, has a long history of combining gerontology and social justice issues . The Institute of Health and Aging, located in nursing is involved in a range of social science research projects. Notable faculty with expertise in aging include Sharon Kaufman, Judith Barker, Kelly Knight, Lawrence Cohen (UC Berkeley).

University of Southern California

A 40-year-old Leonard Davis Gerontology Program with a range of degrees (a social science track undergrad, MA, PhD, and Graduate Certificate), USC has a wealth of resources for students of aging studies, including the Center for Digital Aging, the Center for Global Aging and the Family Caregiver Support Center. The Anthropology Department has a strong emphasis on practice, and counts Cheryl Mattingly and Joan Weibel-Orlando, both of whom have contributed to work on aging in anthropology, among its Emeritus faculty.

Wayne State University

Wayne State University Institute of Gerontology conducts a variety of research on health disparities and the WSU anthropology department with medical expertise. Offers a grad degree in a home department and mentorship from IOG. Notable faculty: AAGE Past-President Mark Luborsky, Director of the Aging and Health Disparities Research Program, and Jessica Robbins.


National University of Singapore

NUS is one of the top universities in world rankings, and aging studies is a focus across several departments. As of 2022, students can for the first time get a degree in anthropology (not combined with Sociology), including a MA and/or PhD in anthropology. Faculty have research strengths in topics like family, migration, and Asian cultures.The research environment includes the Center on Age Research and Education (CARE).


University of Amsterdam

The Program in Heath, Care and the Body doesn’t list aging in its aims and descriptions, but a number of the associated staff have research focuses in this area, and if you have read the recent collection of stories on dementia in somatosphere, you’ll know a bit about their extensive ethnographic project on long-term dementia care directed by cultural anthropologist Robert Pool. Variety of Masters programs and PhD opportunities.

University of Copenhagen

With 25 full-time academic staff, it is one of the largest anthropology departments in Europe, with its research vision focusing on  migration, conflict and conflict resolution, family, religion, materiality, the environment and climate change, and health and medical anthropology. Students can pursue a PhD with notable staff who have expertise in ageing research, such as Susan Reynolds Whyte and Bjarke Oxlund. The Department of Anthropology also houses a number of research centres or has researchers affiliated with interdisciplinary centres under the Faculty of Social Sciences and the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, including the Center for Healthy Aging.

Max Planck International Research Network on Aging

The Research School provides funding for doctoral and postdoctoral students. PhD Students can get funding for up to a maximum of three years, Postdocs for up to a maximum of two years. Each student is affiliated with a participating institute, such as the MPI for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity (the research on ageing and mobility led by Megha Amrith) or the MPI of Social Anthropology.

Linköping University

LiU stands out for interdisciplinarity, so expect a broad and stimulating program from the Division of Ageing and Social Change. Anthropologist Eleonor Antelius is on staff, but others are very receptive to anthropological perspectives. The exciting new International Master’s Programme in Ageing and Social Change (AGE) is now open for applications. AGE will start in autumn 2022 and adopt a hybrid mode of digital learning that includes both classroom teaching and distance learning. Linköping also offers a doctoral program.

Newcastle University

While there isn’t a proper ‘Anthropology’ department, the School of Geography, Politics, and Sociology provides a interdisciplinary research focus on identities, embodiments and selves that includes anthropologist Catherine Degnen, a specialist in ageing. There are tremendous research resources on social gerontology through the Center for Translational Research in Public Health (FUSE) and the Centre for Ageing and Inequalities.


Hope this gives you a good start on finding the program that is right for you. If you are interested in programs for aging studies, you can find a comprehensive listing at Jenage. Other useful links for those interested in a career in gerontology can be found at the AGHE website. If you are interested in supervising PhD projects on anthropology and aging or you would like to see a program listed, please leave a comment and include a URL so we can help others find you!


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top