Scientific Programme • Keynote speakers

Alexandra M. Freund

Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Zurich, Switzerland

Preliminary title of the keynote talk:
“The Blessing and the Curse of Growing Old”

Alexandra M. Freund is currently a Professor of Psychology at the University of Zurich, Dept. of Psychology. She studied psychology at the University of Heidelberg and the Free University of Berlin, where she also received her Ph.D. She was a post-doctoral fellow at Stanford University and returned to Germany to co-direct a project on successful aging and developmental regulation with Paul B. Baltes at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin for seven years. After that, she was an assistant professor and later an associate professor at Northwestern University. Since 2005, she is at the University of Zurich where she holds the chair of “Developmental Psychology: Adulthood.” Alexandra M. Freund was elected as one of the founding members of the Young Academy of Sciences. In 2013, she received a mentoring award of the section for Developmental Psychology of the German Psychological Association, and in 2015 the Humboldt-Research Award. Since 2010, she is associate editor of the APA-journal Psychology and Aging. Central research interests are processes of successful aging, developmental regulation, and motivation across the life span. 

What do you think are the most exciting present and future developments in your field of aging research?

In my area, motivation across the life span, the currently most debated question is how people manage the changing ratio of gains and losses in resources. This question encompasses how people make decisions such as health- or end-of-life-related decisions (e.g., do older adults become more or less risk-averse, more or less loss-avoidant?), how they set and pursue their goals (e.g., are older adults more motivated by short-term hedonic goals or by long-term generative goals?), and how they perceive their own aging (e.g., under which conditions is the last phase of life perceived as a threat or loss-dominated phase of life and under which conditions as fulfilling and satisfying?). As more people live to a very old age, it will be important to understand these questions in order to strive for a society that builds on the strengths of old age rather than lamenting its putative burden.

23NKG is a multidisciplinary conference where the participants have the opportunity to broaden their perspective beyond the themes of their own immediate research areas. How would you like to motivate biologists or medical doctors to attend your lecture?

The way we perceive ourselves and aging is strongly related to our psychological as well as physical well-being. In fact, psychological variables and views of aging are highly predictive of mortality, often more so than objective, health-related variables. Thus, in order to understand fully the multifaceted phenomenon we call "aging," it seems of utmost importance to investigate the psychological factors that characterize it and contribute to successful aging. 

In your mind, how can the Nordic Congress contribute to aging research in general? What do you expect from 23NKG?

I hope to learn about the current research on aging in the Nordic countries where a number of very impressive longitudinal studies have been conducted and where cutting-edge research on various aspects of aging from different disciplines takes place. 


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