At Graduate Convocation each year, the PhD Program in Gerontology honors two students with awards for outstanding scholarship.
The first award is given by the Gerontology Department for the most outstanding dissertation project (aka “book award”). This year’s winner is Jiyoung Lyu. Her project investigated the impact of childhood socioeconomic status on decline in cognition among older adults." Lyu successfully defended her dissertation project this spring. Her study uses seven waves of the Health and Retirement Study to examine change in cognition among older persons over a twelve-year period of time. The study focuses on the role of childhood experiences, especially childhood economic circumstances and health, in terms of whether cognition stays the same, improves, or declines as people age. She found consistently that when childhood economic circumstances were better, cognition decline in later life was less likely.
Her dissertation advisor, Professor Jeff Burr, states that “this study is among a handful of studies to address the relationship between childhood conditions and later life cognition, putting Jiyoung at the cutting edge of research on this topic. The research shows that health is best viewed from a life course perspective, rather than focusing only on the last few years of life.”
Lyu will return to Korea this summer to begin working as a researcher and reconnecting with her family and friends.
Also, Shaungshuang "Wendy" Wang has been selected as the recipient of the 2014 Gerontology Scholarship Award for her paper on "Giving and Receiving Financial Transfers and Life Satisfaction of Older Parents."
Wang’s study examines the relationship between different amounts of intergenerational financial transfers and older parents' life satisfaction to determine whether transfers (given or received) exceeding a specific threshold may undermine parents' life satisfaction. The study also looked at whether such relationships were mediated by a sense of control or moderated by an estimate of financial adequacy (preparedness) for retirement.
Using the 2008 Health and Retirement Study database, Wang’s study included more than 5200 individuals aged 50 and older with at least one adult child. She discovered that, over a two-year period, 38.6% of older parents gave, and 5.9% received, financial transfers to or from adult children.
Commenting on the relevance of Wang’s scholarship, Graduate Program Director Edward Miller notes, “Findings from Wendy’s study highlight the importance of examining different amounts of financial aid given or received by elders. The results suggest that giving modest financial aid to one’s adult children is beneficial to older parents' life satisfaction, while receipt of financial support from their children undermines their happiness."
Wang is an international student from China and plans to graduate in spring 2016.