Eva Kahana

Distinguished University Professor and Pierce T. and Elizabeth D. Robson Professor of the Humanities


Mather Memorial Building 231B

Other Information

Education: Postdoctoral Fellow, Midwest Council for Social Research in Aging, 1968
Ph.D., Human Development, University of Chicago, 1967

Eva Kahana teaches courses in Stress, Health and Coping, Sociology of Institutional Care, and Sociology of Mental Illness. She has been engaged in a program of research related to understanding how older adults cope with a broad spectrum of stressors ranging from increasing frailty to relocation, institutionalization and surviving trauma in their lives. She has worked on a series of NIA funded studies focusing on proactive adaptations undertaken by older adults as they face stressful life situations. Based on these studies she has delineated models of successful aging.

Her recent work has also focused on health care of older adults and the health care relationships forged between patients, physicians and family caregivers. Eva Kahana directs the Elderly Care Research Center and enjoys both mentoring of students in research and developing innovative models relevant to aging and medical sociology. She also serves as director of the Gerontological Studies minor and co-major.





Throughout my career, I pursued an applied program of research aimed at contributing to improved quality-of-life for older adults and focused on conceptualizing and operationalizing older people in a context–i.e. how person-environment transactions explain late life well-being and quality of life. My early work tried to understand the effects of supra-personal aspects of the environment, i.e. age segregation on elderly psychiatric patients. Later I recognized that exclusive focus on the environment is simplistic, and developed a model of person-environment congruence which acknowledges both individual differences and aspects of physical and social environment as acting together to effect late life well-being. Those research efforts resulted in some exciting applications.

Programs of “matching environments to needs of the aged” based on this model were implemented at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C. In one of my studies focusing on the context of institutional care, I began exploring the congruence and divergence in staff and self-conception of the aged. I found that staff view elderly patients as management problems, while even frail elderly see themselves in terms of prior social roles. This research resulted in implementing an intervention in several nursing homes where information about self-conceptions of residents was placed on their chart.

Even while focusing on stresses of institutional life, I have been impressed by adaptive skills and residence of even frail elders. I began to realize that we must learn more about the ways that older persons maintain and enhance quality-of-life even in the face of normative stresses of aging.

Thus began a program of research concerned with older adults who do not fit stereotypes of aging and who can help define elements of successful aging. I believe that focusing on such adaptive skill can help in developing systematic guidelines for proactive policy away from dependency models and in the direction of preventive services for older adults. In a series of studies along with my colleagues, I explored service needs and preferences of community living aged with Boaz Kahana, helping and altruism among the elderly with Elizabeth Midlarsky, coping with heart attacks and caregiving in late life (with Rosalie Young), and coping with chronic stress in the aftermath of the Nazi Holocaust (with Boaz Kahana and Zev Harel). Each of these studies has led to a better understanding of successful coping strategies among older adults and efforts to create meaning in their lives.

The major thrust of my work during the past ten years has been on adventurous old people who relocated to the Sun Belt late in life. In the framework of a MERIT award study, I have focused on adaptation to frailty among 1,000 healthy old-old persons living in a Florida retirement community. Additional funded projects permitted extensions of this work to urban and minority elderly, as well as the study of cancer prevention and care.

This work has culminated in the development of a model of successful aging based on preventive and corrective proactivity. Empirical tests of this model are now under way. This model also provides practitioners and policy makers with useful information on health promotion activities, environmental modifications, and marshalling support by elders. I am now working on translating this information into guidelines for health care partnerships involving the older adult, their caregiver and primary care provider which can enhance health care partnerships, recognizing proactivity of elders in the 21st century. This work will also be integrated into my recent forms of medical care and nursing practice models in our changing climate of managed care.

In recent years, I have worked in close collaboration with the CWRU Medical School and School of Nursing and worked on integrating training of sociology graduate students in health research and aging with professional initiatives in health sciences. I am currently faculty mentor to three junior faculty career development awardees in the medical school under the sponsorship of the National Cancer Institute.  I have also been co-investigator on a project in the School of Nursing on changing nursing practice models in acute and chronic care.

Elderly Care Research Center Website

Elderly Care Research Center Brochure


Stern College for Women, New York – History B.A. 1962

City College of C.U.N.Y. – Clinical Psychology M.A. 1965

University of Chicago – Human Development Ph.D. 1968

Midwest Council for Social Research in Aging,
Postdoctoral Fellow – Sociology 1967 – 1968


Major Research Interests

Social Organization of health care institutions; late life sequelae of social stress; coping and adaptation among the elderly; environmental influences on aging individuals; institutionalization; migration; intergenerational family relationships; medical sociology; health care partnerships; self-care, health care communication; cancer prevention and care.


Teaching Experience

Sociology of Aging; Medical Sociology; Family; Human Development; Research Methods; Social Problems; Social Psychology; Sociology of Health Care Institutions; Social Factors in Stress and Coping; Social Research in Health Care Settings; Sociology of Mental Health.


Professional Experience

  • Professor, Department of Sociology, Case Western Reserve University, 1984-present
  • Chair, Department of Sociology, Case Western Reserve University, 1985-present
  • Pierce T. & Elizabeth D. Robson Professor of Humanities, Department of Sociology, Case Western Reserve University, 1990-2010
  • Director, Elderly Care Research Center, Case Western Reserve University, 1984-present
  • Visiting Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology School of Architecture, Fall 1992
  • Director, Elderly Care Research Center, Wayne State University, 1967-1984
  • Lecturer, Wayne State University Medical School, Departments of Family and Community Medicine, 1972-1975, 1983-1989
  • Distinguished Visiting Scientist, University of Detroit Center for Human Development and Aging, 1981-1987
  • Research Associate, Assistant Professor, Washington University, Department of Sociology and Medical Care Research Center, 1966-1971
  • Director of Research, Ida Rosenblatt Research Center of Jewish Center for the Aged, St. Louis, Missouri, 1969-1971
  • Fellow, Midwest Council of Research in Aging, 1967-1968
  • Predoctoral Trainee in Social Gerontology, University of Chicago, Committee on Human Development. Ph.D. dissertation research on effects of age segregation on elderly psychiatric patients at a state psychiatric hospital, 1963-1965
  • Research Assistant to R. Havighurst and B. Neugarten in cross-national study of retirement, University of Chicago, Committee on Human Development, 1964-1965
  • V.A. Trainee in Clinical Psychology, Downey Veteran’s Administration Hospital, Downey, IL. Assigned to geriatric unit, clinical work, diagnostic testing and psychotherapy with aged under supervision of D.R. Barrel, Summer 1965


Teaching Experience

  • Committee on Nominations of the Section on Aging and the Life Course, American Sociological Association
  • Seminar Scholar, 2006 Baker-Nord Seminar on Information, Case Western Reserve University
  • Fellow, Association for Gerontology in Higher Education, 2006
  • Outstanding Journal Special Issue in Applied Communication for Advancing Consumer/Provider Health Communication Research in Patient Education and Counseling, Volume 50, Issue 1, 2003.   Awarded for significant contribution to scholarship in applied communication theory, research, and practice, Applied Communication Division, National Communication Association.
  • Holocaust Survivor of Achievement, featured in 60th Anniversary of the Holocaust Commemorative Issue for the State of Ohio, April 2005.
  • Outstanding Gerontological Educator in the State of Ohio, OAGE, April 2004
  • Outstanding Alumnae, Yeshiva University-Stern College Past 50 Years, 2004
  • John S. Diekhoff Distinguished Graduate Teaching Award, Case Western Reserve University, 2002
  • Chair, American Sociological Association, Section on Aging and the Life Course, 2000-2001
  • Distinguished Scholar Lecturer, American Sociological Association, Section on Aging and the Life Course, 1998
  • Distinguished Scholar Award Recipient, American Sociological Association, Section on Aging and the Life Course, 1997
  • Polisher Award for Creative Contributions to Applied Gerontology, Gerontological Society of America, 1997
  • Elected to Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society, 1994
  • Outstanding Gerontological Researcher in Ohio, Ohio Research Council on Aging, 1993
  • Mary E. Switzer Distinguished Fellow, National Institute of Disability and Rehabilitation, 1992-93
  • Visiting Scholar, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Fall 1992
  • Heller Award for Distinguished Service to Gerontology & Geriatrics, Menorah Park Center for the Aging, October 1992
  • Doctor of Humane Letters, Yeshiva University, May 1991
  • National Institute on Aging Merit Award, July 1989-1999
  • Armington Professor, Case Western Reserve University, 1989-1990
  • Distinguished Mentorship Award, Gerontological Society of America, Behavioral and Social Sciences Section, 1987
  • Elected Life Member, Academy of Scholars, Wayne State University, 1983
  • Outstanding Alumna in Education, Stern College for Women, 1982
  • Career Scientist Development Award, NIMH, USPHS, 1974-1979
  • Presidential Citation, Wayne State University, 1979
  • Fellow, Gerontological Society of America, 1978
  • Prochovnick Award, Israel Gerontological Society, 1978
  • Probus Award for Academic Achievement, Wayne State University, 1974
  • Outstanding Young Women of America, State Award Winner, Missouri, 1970
  • Publisher’s Prize for Research Excellence, Southwestern Psychological Association, 1969
  • USPHS Pre-Doctoral Fellow in Social Gerontology, 1963-1966
  • Listed in Who’s Who in America, American Men and Women of Science, Who’s Who of Women in Education, Who’s Who in Medical Care, Who’s Who in the Midwest, Who’s Who of American Women, Who’s Who in Medicine, 2,000 Outstanding Scholars of the 20th Century


National Academic Offices

  • Chair, Disability Interest Group, Section on Aging and the Life Course, American Sociological Association, 2004-present
  • Chair, Nominations Committee, Section on Aging and the Life Course, American Sociology Association, 2001-2002
  • Section Chair, Section on Aging and the Life Course, American Sociology Association, 2000-2001
  • Chair, Program Committee, Section on Aging and the Life Course, American Sociology Association, 2000-2001
  • Chair, Awards Committee, Section on Aging and the Life Course, American Sociological Association, 1999-2000
  • Member, Program Committee, Gerontological Society of America, 1999 Member, Organizing Committee, International Conference on Traumatic Stress, 1996
  • Member, Program Committee, Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, 1989-1990
  • Member, Awards Committee, Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, 1988-1989
  • Chairperson, Mentorship Committee Behavioral&Social Sciences Section, Gerontological Society of America, 1985-1988
  • Chairperson, Behavioral and Social Sciences Section, Gerontological Society of America, 1984-1985
  • Member of Council, Section on Aging, American Sociological Association, 1986-1989
  • Member, Taskforce on Aging, Liaison to National Associations, American Orthopsychiatric Association, 1983-1985
  • Member, Local Arrangements Committee, American Sociological Association, 1982-1983
  • Member, Awards Committee, Gerontological Society of America, 1982-1983
  • Member, Research Committee, White House Conference on Aging, 1981
  • Member, Program Committee, International Gerontological Society, 1977-1978
  • Member, Executive Committee, Gerontological Society of America, 1973-1974

Peer Review Committees

  • Alberta Research Council, Hong Kong, 2005-2006
  • Member, Minority Research Review Committee – National Institute of Health, 1993-1994
  • Member, Research Review Committee – National Institute of Health – Heart, Blood & Lung Institute, 1986-1988
  • Member, Small Grants Review Committee – National Institute on Aging, 1983-1984 Member, Teaching Nursing Home Review Committee – National Institute on Aging, 1983-1984
  • Member, Research Review Committee – National Institute on Aging, 1976-1980
  • Member, Social Problems Research Review Committee – National Institute of Mental Health, 1971-1975
  • Ad Hoc Reviewer – National Science Foundation, National Library of Medicine, Social Science & Humanities Research Council of Canada, March of Dimes, Social Security Administration, and National Data Archives

Editorial Board

  • Caregiving Series, Rosalyn Carter Institute, 2005
  • Gerontologist Action Editor, 2005
  • Annals of Family Medicine, 2002-present
  • Applied Behavioral Science Review, 1991-present
  • Family Caregiving Series, Sage Publications, 1992-present The Journal of Applied Social Sciences, 1988-present


Editorial Reviewer

  • American Sociological Review
  • Annals of Family Medicine
  • Cross-cultural Gerontology
  • Contemporary Sociology
  • Experimental Aging Research
  • International Journal of Aging & Human Development
  • Journal of Aging and Health
  • Journal of the American Geriatrics Society
  • Journal of Applied Gerontology
  • Journal of Gerontology − Social Sciences
  • Journal of Health & Social Behavior
  • Journal of Traumatic Stress
  • Medical Care
  • Research in Aging
  • Social Forces
  • Social Science & Medicine

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