History of the IPG

A Short History of the IPG

From the early beginnings until today


The Institute of Psychogerontology at the Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg is the only university institute of its kind in Bavaria. The IPG is one among the few university institutions in the German-speaking countries in the field of social and behavioral sciences that combine academic training (M.Sc.) and fundamental research in gerontology.

The Institute of Psychogerontology owes its existence to the founding director Prof. Dr. Oswald, who initiated the institute in 1986 and chaired it for more than 20 years. The importance of the Institute is also defined by the comprehensive focus on the field of medical, behavioral and social gerontology at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, which is the only university in Germany housing two independent institutions in Gerontology: the Institute of Biomedicine of Aging (formerly Institute of Gerontology, Chair: Prof. Dr. med. C. Sieber) and the Institute of Psychogerontology (Chair: Prof. Dr. F.R. Lang)

Gerontology at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg

The tradition of ageing research as well in social and behavioral sciences as in Gerontology and Geriatrics has yet more distant historical roots in the in the Nuremberg-Erlangen region. For example Prof. Dr. Hans Thomae, one of the most important German gerontologists, worked from 1953 to 1960 as a professor of psychology at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. Together with other researchers the well-known specialist in internal medicine René Schubert founded the German Association of Gerontology (DGG) 1966 in Nuremberg. In the year of 1967 Hans Thomae and the Nuremberg sociologist Prof. Dr. Specht initiated the foundation of a Section Psychology and Sociology within the DGG.

On April 1, in 1986 the Institute of Psychology II with a focus on psychological aging research was established at the Faculty of Education, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. The chair, Prof. Dr. WD Oswald, has done research on the effects of pharmacological treatment on age-related brain disorders and developed (together with u. Fleischmann) the Nuremberg test battery for assessing cognitive performance and subjective feelings of old people.

Since the 1980s the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg already had one of the extremely rare chairs of Gerontology (Prof. Dr. Platt) and an Institute of Gerontology, where mainly the biology of aging was investigated. The emerged Institute of Biomedicine of Aging (Director: Prof. Dr. C. Sieber) is dedicated to the biological and medical aspects of aging.

Because of their complementarity both scientific institutes form a special focus in the field of applied gerontology, which to this day is unique within the German-speaking world.

Academic Programmes in Psychogerontology and Gerontology

According to the special environment in gerontology as well as to the ever-increasing demand for university education and further training in the field of gerontology an independent, interdisciplinary study programme in Psychogerontology was established in cooperation with experts in the field of geriatrics and geriatric psychiatry.

The postgraduate programme in Psychogerontology proved to be very successful and soon attracted many students from Germany and neighboring countries. The research focus Gerontopsychology and the postgraduate course Psychogerontology were so well established after a few years that the foundation of an institute of psychogerontolgy at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, was considered appropriate.

In October 1996, Prof. Oswald finally succeeded in founding the Institute of Psychogerontology at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg (IPG).
With the establishment of the Institute the further expansion of the postgraduate study programme Psychogerontology could be achieved. It was also very important to further develop the programme in cooperation with the Chair of Geriatrics, Prof. Dr. C. Sieber and the chief physician of Geriatrics of Waldkrankenhaus Erlangen Prof. Dr. Gassmann towards medical training components.

Since July 1, 2006 the Institute of Psychogerontology is chaired by Prof. Dr. Frieder R. Lang, who continued the consolidation of the graduate program consistently. Since 1 October 2007 the former postgraduate course is offered with the degree of Master of Science (Univ.) In Gerontology, the interdisciplinary nature of the programme could be further expanded.
The teaching and research activities of IPG benefit from its interdisciplinary networking in the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg and in the region.

Research at the Institute of Psychogerontology

Since its foundation the Institute for Psychogerontology also experienced a positive development of its reseach work which received a great amount of attention in the scientific community and as well as in the media.

One focus during the first two decades of the Institute were mainly longitudinal studies on topics of developing dementia in later life.
The study on independence in old age (SIMA) should be mentioned here as well as Interdisciplinary Longitudinal Study of adulthood (ILSE) which started
In 1990 in cooperation with the universities of Bonn, Heidelberg, Leipzig and Rostock.

Another important focus of research was the work on the creation of an extensive inventory to measure different aging and age phenomena which was supervised by Prof. Dr. Oswald together with Prof. Dr. Ulrich Fleischmann (now at the University of Applied Sciences Würzburg-Schweinfurt).
The resulting “Nuremberg Age Inventory“ (NAI) is unique in its diversity and has since been translated into many languages.

Another prominent research area at the Institute of Psychogerontology concerns the field of transport and mobility in old age, which was systematically developed since 1992 by Prof. Dr. HJ Kaiser.
Prof. Kaiser, one of the leading German experts in the field of research on mobility in old age, headed 2010 the “Medizinisch-Psychologisch-Technische-Obergutachtenstelle” der Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg. Prof. Kaiser succeed in merging traffic research and gerontological research in the context of several successful research projects

The Institute of Psychogerontology has also been active on the level of scientific societies for the development of gerontology in Germany. Prof. Oswald was President of the German Society of Gerontology and Geriatrics (DGGG, successor to the DGG) from 1998 to 2002 and Prof. Kaiser Executive Vice President of this society from 2000 until 2002.
Based on Prof. Oswald’s initiative the Federation of Gerontology and Geriatric Professional Societies (DVGG Germany) was founded in 2002.

The Institute is also indebted to Prof. Oswald for the founding of the Interdisciplinary Center for Gerontology (IZG) at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, and the founding of the Interdisciplinary Working Group on Applied Gerontology (IAAG, together with Prof. Kaiser).

(H. J. Kaiser/ F. R. Lang)