Miller School Aging Expert Receives Social Impact Award

Sara J. Czaja, Ph.D., Leonard M. Miller Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, traveled to Paris this April, where she was honored with an international Social Impact Award for her positive application of human-computer interaction research to pressing social needs.

“I am honored to receive such a prestigious award, especially because it recognizes the importance of considering issues related to aging and older adults within the human-computer interaction and systems design community,” said Czaja.

Presented by the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction at an April 28 banquet, the award recognizes Czaja for facilitating the use of computer and telecommunication technology, increasing access to technology, reducing economic barriers to information, improving medical care, education, housing and nutrition, supporting technologies for international development and conflict resolution, improving human communication and reducing isolation.

“Dr. Czaja is one of our most accomplished and esteemed faculty,” said Charles B. Nemeroff, M.D., Ph.D., Leonard M. Miller Professor and Chair of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Director of the Center on Aging. “This award is one in a series of honors bestowed upon her because of her remarkable extramural grant funding, talent as a mentor and leader and sheer creativity, all directed at helping others, including patients, students and colleagues. I could not be more proud to count Dr. Czaja as a colleague and friend.”

Czaja, who holds a secondary appointment in the College of Engineering’s Department of Industrial Engineering, is known for developing innovative strategies and technologies to enhance the quality of life for older adults through research, education, service modeling and policy development. In her role as Scientific Director of the Center on Aging at the Miller School, she focuses on basic and applied research of diverse older adult populations and their families, emphasizing the importance of multidisciplinary care that integrates biomedical, behavioral, clinical, social, and human factors engineering.

A pioneer in the field of aging and caregiving, Czaja has headed several projects with national significance and impact, including the Center on Research and Education for Aging and Technology Enhancement (CREATE), which she launched and directs. The NIH-funded center makes technology systems more accessible, useful and usable for older populations.

“Our groups at the Center on Aging and CREATE have done extensive work to ensure that older adults realize the benefits and can successfully use technology systems,” said Czaja. “It is wonderful to have our work recognized by this international community.”

Her extensive research is widely published, gracing the pages of many books, book chapters and scientific articles.

A Fellow of the American Psychological Association, the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, and the Gerontological Society of America, Czaja also was invited to give a lecture on the theme of “changing perspectives” at the ACM Computer-Human Interaction Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, the premier international conference on human-computer interaction.

In her lecture, “Technology Systems to Support Older Adults: Opportunities and Challenges,” she discussed the potential role of technology in supporting the independence and well-being of older adults, particularly in healthcare applications.

“Realizing the potential benefits of technology for older people is dependent upon recognizing their needs, preferences and abilities in the design of technology systems,” said Czaja. “Currently, despite the increased use of technology by older adults, there is still an age-related digital divide, especially for vulnerable, at-risk populations.”

The annual multidisciplinary conference attracts students and experts from more than 60 countries with diverse perspectives.

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