David J. Ekerdt, Ph.D.

Primary office:
749 Fraser Hall
Second office:
3090 Dole Human Development Center

David J. Ekerdt is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Gerontology Center at the University of Kansas. From 1988-1997 he was Associate Director of the Center on Aging and Associate Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Dr. Ekerdt teaches the sociology of aging and quantitative research methods, and has supervised graduate students on both campuses. His funded studies of work and retirement have examined the retirement process and its effects on health, well-being, and the marital relationship, as well as behavioral expectations on later life.

Dr. Ekerdt is presently conducting research on American workers’ changing experience of retirement, and on the ways that people manage and dispose of their possessions in later life. These studies have been supported by grants from the National Institute on Aging and the Volkswagen Foundation. He also is Editor-in-Chief of the Macmillan Encyclopedia of Aging, a four-volume, one-million-word work published in 2002. The work has seven specialty editors from the U.S. and Canada and covers topics in biology, health care, social and behavioral sciences, humanities, ethics, and social policy.

A graduate of Boston University (Ph.D., 1979), Dr. Ekerdt has also been a member of the faculties of the Harvard School of Dental Medicine and the Boston University School of Public Health. From 1994 to 1997 he served as editor of the Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, and from 1998-2001 was Chair of the Editorial Board for the journal Generations. From 1997 to 1999 he was member and chair of the Human Development and Aging (HUD-2) study section for grant reviews at the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Ekerdt is a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America (GSA), and he has been a member of the Board of Directors of the American Society on Aging. During 2002-2003 he served as chair of the Aging and Life Course section of the American Sociological Association. During 2004-2006 he chaired the Publications Committee of GSA, and in 2010-2011 he chaired the Behavioral and Social Sciences Section of GSA.

Teaching Interests

  • Aging and life course
  • Quantitative methods

Research Interests

  • Transitions
  • Work and retirement
  • Possessions
  • Residential relocation
  • Future thinking

Professor Ekerdt (PhD, Boston) has concentrated his research and teaching on issues related to aging and the life course. The theme of his research is people’s agency in facing and managing the normative, socially structured transitions of the life course. His publications have addressed issues of social structure and aging, decision-making processes for later life, age and consumption, and techniques for the analysis of time-series data. His research specialties are (1) the transition from work to retirement, and (2) the management of possessions in later life. He is Editor-in-Chief of the four-volume Macmillan Encyclopedia of Aging (2002). Areas: Aging, Work and Organizations, Medical Sociology, and Family.



.......Social institutions use age to characterize individuals and sort them as to the use of life time.  Yet with the democratization of longevity, the contemporary outlook about aging has become profoundly ambiguous.  We both celebrate it and regret it; societies organize efforts to guarantee the welfare and longevity of their citizens, but then resent the elders in their midst.  My research has addressed the ambiguity of aging with studies of the process of retirement—how people anticipate, enter, and adapt to this stage of life, as well as the societal arrangements that shape this process.  I am also conducting research on the management and meaning of possessions in later life—how people’s belongings support their identity but can also weigh them down.

Professor David Ekerdt's Curriculum Vitae (PDF)

Household Moves Project webpage

Gerontology Center

Fall 2017 Courses

  • Soc 767 Gerontology Proseminar

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