David J. Ekerdt

David J. Ekerdt
  • Professor Emeritus
  • Research Centers - Sociology, Life Span Institute

Contact Info

Fraser Hall Room 716
1415 Jayhawk Blvd
Lawrence, KS 66045


David J. Ekerdt is Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Gerontology 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.  He directed the KU Gerontology Center from 2003-2016.  He teaches the sociology of aging and research methods, and he has supervised graduate students on both campuses. 

Dr. Ekerdt has three areas of research.  (1) 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.  (2) He has used interview and survey methods to study the ways that older people manage and dispose of possessions during residential relocation.  Findings from this research appear in the new book, Downsizing: Confronting Our Possessions in Later Life (2020).  (3) He is one of an international team of psychologists and sociologists funded by the Volkswagen Foundation to compare older adults' conceptions of aging, time, and the future in the Czech Republic, Germany, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the U.S. 

These projects have resulted in 100+ articles, chapters, reviews, editorials, and edited books.  He was Editor-in-Chief of the Macmillan Encyclopedia of Aging, a four-volume, one-million-word work published in 2002, a work with seven specialty editors that 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.  In 2010-2011 he chaired the Behavioral and Social Sciences Section of GSA.

Dr. Ekerdt served as 2018 President of the GSA, the nation's oldest and largest interdisciplinary society for research, education, and practice in the field of aging.  The principal mission of the Society - and its 5,500+ members - is to advance the study of aging and disseminate information among scientists, decision makers, and the general public. Its members come from more than 50 countries.


Ph.D. in Sociology, Boston University
B.A. in Sociology and Philosophy, Marquette University


Aging and Life Course, Work and Retirement, Possessions, Residential Relocation



Work and retirement


Residential relocation

Future thinking


Aging and life course

Research methods

Selected Publications

Ekerdt, D.J., Adamson, E., Hasmanová Marhánková, J., Chin, D.C.W., Fung, H.H, Liou, S., Morgan, C.A., Lessenich, S., & Münch, A. (2023). The fourth age in prospect. Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences 78 (12), 2062–2070.DOI: 10.1093/geronb/gbad144

Ekerdt, D.J. & Adamson, E.  (in press).  Economic inequality in later life and imagination of the future.  Ageing & Society.

de Paula Couto, M.C.P., Ekerdt, D.J., Fung, H.H., Hess, T.M. & Rothermund, K. (2022). What will you do with all that time? Changes in leisure activities after retirement are determined by age-related self-views and preparation.  Acta Psychologia, 231, 103795, 1-9.

Ekerdt, D.J.  (2022). What we miss.  Response to Linda Hess: Queer aging and the significance of (narrative) representation.  In K. deMedeiros, M. Goldman & T. Cole (Eds), Critical humanities and ageing: Forging interdisciplinary dialogues (pp. 171-176).  Routledge.

Ekerdt, DJ.  (2020).  Downsizing: Confronting Our Possessions in Later Life.  New York: Columbia University Press.

Ekerdt, D.J. (2018).  Editorial: Longevity’s purposes.  Innovation in Aging, 2(3), 1-2.

Lessenich, S., Ekerdt,  D.J., Münch, A., Koss, C.S., Li, A.L.  & Fung, H. (2018).  The dog that didn’t bark: The challenge of cross-cultural qualitative research on aging.  Journal of Aging Studies, 47, 66-71.

Ekerdt, D. (2018). Things and possessions. In S. Katz (Ed.), Ageing in everyday life: Materialities and embodiments (pp. 29-44). Bristol, UK: Policy Press.

Henkens, K. Van Dalen, H. Ekerdt, D. J., Hershey, D. A., Hyde, M. Radl, J. van Solinge, H. Wang, M. & Zacher, H. (2018). What we need to know about retirement: Pressing issues for the coming decade. The Gerontologist58, 805-812.

Ekerdt, D. J. (2018). In defense of the not-so-busy-retirement. Wall Street Journal, pp. R1-R2.

Ekerdt, D. J., Koss, C. S., Angel, L. Muench, A. Lessenich, S. & Helene, F. (2017). Is longevity a value for older adults? Journal of Aging Studies43, 46-52. DOI://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaging.2017.10.002

Koss, C. & Ekerdt, D. J. (2017). Residential reasoning and the tug of the fourth age. The Gerontologist57, 921-929. DOI:10.1093/geront/gnw010

Ekerdt, D. (2016). Gerontology in five images. The Gerontologist56, 184-192.

Ekerdt, D. J., & Koss, C. (2016). The task of time in retirement. Ageing and Society36, 1295-1311.

Ekerdt, D. J. (2015). Possessions as a material convoy. In J. Twigg & W. Martin (Eds.), Routledge Handbook of Cultural Gerontology (pp. 313-320).

Ekerdt, D. J., & Addington, A. (2015). Possession divestment by sales in later life. Journal of Aging Studies34, 21-28.

Ekerdt, D. J., & Baker, L. A. (2014). The material convoy after age 50. Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences69, 442-450.

Addington, A. & Ekerdt, D. J. (2014). The reproduction of gender norms through downsizing in later life residential relocation. Research on Aging36, 3-21.

Ekerdt, D. J. (2013). A Mother's Day giftThe New Old Age Blog New York Times.

Szinovacz, M. E., Ekerdt, D. J., Butt, A. Barton, K. & Oala, C. R. (2012). Families and retirement. In R. Blieszner & V. H. Bedford (Eds.), Handbook of families and aging (2nd ed.) (pp. 461-488). Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.

Klaus, S. Ekerdt, D. J., & Gajewski, B. J. (2012). Job satisfaction in birth cohorts of nurses. Journal of Nursing Management20, 461-471.

Ekerdt, D. J., Luborsky, M. & Lysack, C. (2012). Safe passage of goods and self during residential relocation in later life. Ageing and Society32, 833-850.