Zarit Earns GSA’s 2019 Robert W. Kleemeier Award

For Immediate Release
June 11, 2019

Contact: Todd Kluss
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The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) — the nation’s largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to the field of aging — has chosen Steven Zarit, PhD, FGSA, of The Pennsylvania State University as the 2019 recipient of the Robert W. Kleemeier Award.

This distinguished honor is given annually to a GSA member in recognition for outstanding research in the field of gerontology. It was established in 1965 in memory of Robert W. Kleemeier, PhD, a former president of the Society whose contributions to the quality of life through research in aging were exemplary.

The award presentation will take place at GSA’s 2019 Annual Scientific Meeting, which will be held from November 13 to 17 in Austin, Texas. This conference is organized to foster interdisciplinary collaboration among researchers, educators, and practitioners who specialize in the study of the aging process. Visit for further details.

Zarit is a distinguished professor emeritus of human development and family studies at The Pennsylvania State University. Focusing on mental health issues of older adults, his pioneering work in caregiving revolutionized the field of dementia care. His research and writings are often credited with drawing national attention to the difficulties faced by families providing care to an older relative with dementia. His research and advocacy have been largely responsible for propelling caregiving issues into the national policy arena and mass media spotlight.

His seminal 1980 paper, “Relatives of the Impaired Elderly: Correlates of Feelings of Burden,” has received more than 4,600 citations. Prior to this research, scholars interested in Alzheimer’s disease focused on changing the patient’s behavior. Indeed, this work shifted the paradigm to examine the caregiver’s perspective and what could be changed to lighten the burden for these family members. Zarit used a cognitive behavioral perspective to compare the objective stressors in the situation to the appraisals of subjective burden-and demonstrated that subjective evaluations mattered more. These findings have been replicated in many hundreds of studies since their publication. Entire courses and programs in social work and gerontology draw on these important findings to seek to improve the lives of caregivers.

Zarit’s work also extends beyond dementia to consider psychological well-being more broadly. He is considered a leading expert on aging and mental health and has made several foundational contributions to the assessment and clinical implications of how older adults experience cognitive changes. His book “Mental Disorders in Older Adults” is viewed as the authoritative guide for researchers and practitioners.

He is a GSA fellow, which represents the highest category of membership within the Society. He also previously earned GSA’s M. Powell Lawton Award, Distinguished Career Contribution to Gerontology Award, and Distinguished Mentorship in Gerontology Award.


The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) is the nation's oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to 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. GSA’s structure also includes a policy institute, the National Academy on an Aging Society, and an educational unit, the Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education.

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