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Karl A. Pillemer, Ph.D.
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Karl A. Pillemer, Ph.D is a professor of human development at Cornell University and professor of gerontology in medicine at the Weill Cornell Medical College. An internationally renowned gerontologist, his research examines how people develop and change throughout their lives. He has authored five books and over 100 scientific publications, and speaks throughout the world on aging-related issues. In a recent set of studies, Dr. Pillemer decided to find out what older people know about life that the rest of us don't. This project led to the book: 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans, published by Hudson Street Press in November 2011. For more information on the The Legacy Project, please visit the blog: http://legacyproject.human.cornell.edu, like The Legacy Project on Facebook, and follow author Karl Pillemer on Twitter.

Entries by Karl A. Pillemer, Ph.D.

The 3 Questions Everyone Should Ask Before Marriage

(5) Comments | Posted August 13, 2014 | 6:54 AM

How can you possibly decide, out of millions of possible candidates, that a particular individual is the right mate for a lifetime?

I could only think of one group to ask: people who made the choice and stayed happily married for 50, 60, 70 years and more. My interviews with...

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The Marriage Mistake Almost Everybody Makes

(58) Comments | Posted January 27, 2014 | 11:40 AM

Making a mistake in choosing one's partner is so common, it's embedded in legend, literature, and popular culture. To see what I mean, start with Greek tragedy, move to Macbeth, stop off at Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary, and wind up watching Lifetime TV just about any evening. As in...

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7 Questions We Need To Ask Every Older Person

(23) Comments | Posted November 10, 2013 | 5:41 AM

I'm proposing a new holiday. Or rather, a new use for an old holiday. I believe that we should make Thanksgiving the day when we celebrate elder wisdom by asking older people to tell us their advice for living. Here's why.

Occasionally, the question runs through younger people's minds...

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Pourquoi devrait-on avoir peur de mourir?

(2) Comments | Posted October 24, 2013 | 1:39 PM

En ce moment, on a l'impression d'être inondé par des livres évoquant la mort et disant comme c'est formidable. J'imagine que cela vient en partie du vieillissement des baby-boomers (je me rappelle de quelqu'un lançant malicieusement que nous saurions que c'est la fin du baby-boom quand on verrait apparaître des...

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Why Should Anyone Be Afraid Of Dying?

(20) Comments | Posted October 16, 2013 | 7:23 AM

We seem to be inundated now with books about death -- and about how great it is. I assume that this is part of the aging of the baby boomers (I remember someone quipping that we'd know the end of the baby boom had come when we started to see...

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'Don't Go To Bed Angry': Sound Marriage Advice Or Cliché?

(32) Comments | Posted August 19, 2013 | 6:44 AM

When is a piece of advice about marriage an empty cliché, and when is it profound -- and practical -- wisdom? In interviews with hundreds of long-married older people, one prescription for a happy marriage was offered by almost everyone.

So before I go any further, go out and find...

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The Most Surprising Regret Of The Very Old -- And How You Can Avoid It

(121) Comments | Posted April 4, 2013 | 7:04 AM

What do older people regret when they look back over their lives? I asked hundreds of the oldest Americans that question. I had expected big-ticket items: an affair, a shady business deal, addictions -- that kind of thing. I was therefore unprepared for the answer they often gave:

I wish...

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'Opposites Attract' Or 'Birds Of A Feather' -- What's Best For A Long Marriage?

(154) Comments | Posted January 31, 2013 | 6:10 AM

I've spent time over the past year talking with young people about their hopes for marriage. And the question that comes up more than any other is: "How do I know if the person is the right one for me?" Is there a way to tell if someone is likely...

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Learning How To Fight: Four Wise Tips For Couples

(61) Comments | Posted November 5, 2012 | 9:07 AM

What makes or breaks a marriage? To uncover the answer to that question, I have been interviewing the individuals I believe are the true experts: older people who have been married for decades. In hundreds of discussions with America's elders (described in my recent book), one answer is...

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The Four-Letter Word For Older Voters

(3) Comments | Posted October 1, 2012 | 9:14 AM

In this election season, political commentators are busily debating why different American subgroups vote the way they do. This year, they're paying increasing attention to older Americans, largely because the elderly are more likely to vote than young people.

I'd like to shed light on what concerns older...

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The Myth of the 50-50 Marriage

(166) Comments | Posted September 10, 2012 | 9:56 AM

What makes for a long marriage? It's a question that social scientists and clinicians have tried to answer for many years, with limited results. We still don't really know why, after the joy of a wedding, one couple ends up on the rocks after a few years and another stays...

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Hey Dad: There Might Be A "Magic Bullet" for Parenting

(2) Comments | Posted June 16, 2012 | 1:10 PM

Amid the gifts and Father's Day festivities, an undercurrent of confusion can be detected. As a dad for 30 years, I know that figuring out what constitutes "good fathering" can be something of a challenge. We live in a society of rapidly shifting roles and responsibilities, and many fathers (and...

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Secrets To A Happy Marriage (From the Real Experts)

(348) Comments | Posted June 11, 2012 | 8:26 AM

It's June, the month we traditionally associate with getting married. And more than ever, marriage is seen as threatened. Over the past half century, rates of marriage have fallen, people are waiting longer to get married, and divorce rates have increased, leading to the oft-cited statistic that around half of...

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The End of the Greatest Generation: Is Anyone Paying Attention?

(22) Comments | Posted May 2, 2012 | 5:18 PM

I recently had a stunning realization: We're about to lose one of the most precious resources in America. I'm not talking about oil, gas or rare metals. What we're about to lose Is the living presence of the elders who make up the Greatest Generation.

This amazing group survived...

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Elder "Mantras": Wisdom to Live By

(2) Comments | Posted March 24, 2012 | 10:11 AM

What happens when you receive life-changing advice? Do you take it all in at once? Or does one particular sentence or even phrase stay with you, becoming a part of the way you look at an issue or challenge?

I've spent a lot of time over the past six years...

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Gray and Green: Good for You, Good for Society

(3) Comments | Posted March 6, 2012 | 5:13 AM

  • Martin Phillips volunteers many hours each month in local environmental organizations, helping to organize trail clean-ups and testing water quality in streams. His goal is to help preserve the earth for future generations, even though he will not personally see the benefits.
  • Janice Phelps has always loved being outside in...
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Parents Of Estranged Children Offer Advice

(73) Comments | Posted February 11, 2012 | 10:47 AM

I sat with Susan, a petite and lively 85 year old and talked about growing up in the rural south, her work and her two marriages. Susan, despite a daunting array of health problems, is a funny, lively person. She likes a drink or two and enjoys her activities with...

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Tuskegee Airman Hiram Mann Shares Life Lessons

(6) Comments | Posted January 26, 2012 | 6:38 AM

Hiram Mann, 90, had to fight to find the work he loved, overcoming tremendous odds. The struggle and the rewards of his 90 years were encapsulated in his first words in our interview: "I was one of the original legendary Tuskegee Airmen."

America is waking up to one of...

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Why Should We Listen to Old People? A Very Good Question

(23) Comments | Posted January 16, 2012 | 7:24 AM

I have received many comments in response to the publication of my book about the advice older people have for younger generations. Praise is always welcome, but I equally appreciate people who have challenged my way of thinking. One of these is Peter, from Massachusetts.

...
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Get Happy: Five Surprising Resolutions From The Wisest Americans

(6) Comments | Posted January 4, 2012 | 9:22 AM

Yes, it's that time of year again. We're all seeing the lists of resolutions in the press and on various blogs. But I recall reading that only a tiny fraction of New Year's resolutions are ever acted upon.

So I decided to review the data we gathered from more...

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