UZH Vontobel Award Goes to Three Researchers

This year’s Vontobel Award for Research on Age(ing) was presented to three academics: Psychologist Stephen Aichele from the University of Geneva and UZH neuroscientist Nathalie Giroud were awarded 12,000 francs each, while Ann Barbara Bauer, business economist at the University of Fribourg, received 6,000 francs.

Vontobel Award winner Nathalie Giroud, UZH, describes in her work the behavioral and neurophysiological consequences of auditory and speech processing disorders in elderly people. (image:

The jury for the Vontobel Award was tasked with reviewing 20 high-caliber works that focused on gerontological issues from a very wide range of disciplines. Three of these have now been now selected and awarded 30,000 francs, which is divided among the winners.

Effects of personal development and environmental change in old age

Stephen Aichele from the University of Geneva’s Department of Psychology and Educational Sciences was awarded 12,000 francs for his research, which uses novel methods to investigate the causes of human longevity. The jury acknowledged his work for linking two previously unconnected developmental studies by combining the latest statistical procedures with data from a longitudinal study that spans more than 29 years. This created a realistic picture of how personal development and individual changes as a result of environmental factors influence each other, and how this impacts life expectancy and the quality of life in old age.

Measuring hearing performance neurophysiologically

A further 12,000 francs was awarded to Nathalie Giroud from the Neuroplasticity and Learning in Healthy Aging research group at the University of Zurich’s Department of Psychology. Giroud’s work is among the first in the world to describe the behavioral and neurophysiological consequences of auditory and speech processing disorders in elderly people. She used behavioral tests as well as neuroscientific processes that had previously seen little application in research on aging to precisely measure losses in hearing performance. She also included elderly people with no hearing impairment in her study and was thus able to achieve a differentiated picture of old age.

More continuing education programs due to a higher retirement age for women

6,000 francs were given to the third winner, Ann Barbara Bauer, who is a PhD candidate at the Chair of Public Finance at the University of Fribourg. She was awarded for her innovative approach in demonstrating how the perception of elderly people and their potential is shaped more strongly by the legal framework than by their actual skills and performance. Her research demonstrates that increasing the retirement age for women in Switzerland from 62 to 64 resulted in businesses investing significantly more in the continuing education of their older employees. Her study is thus an example of research into healthy aging, since her work focuses on an empowering element rather than the impairments of old age.

Vontobel Award for Research on Age(ing)

Each year, the Center for Gerontology of the University of Zurich presents the Vontobel Award for Research on Age(ing) endowed by the Vontobel Foundation. The award aims to support gerontological research in Switzerland originating from any field of science related to age and aging and raise awareness among the general public of issues around aging in society. The prize money of 30,000 francs is used to award junior researchers who perform outstanding work. The contest is open to all researchers who work or perform research in Switzerland, or who have a close connection to Switzerland.

18th Zurich Gerontology Day on 22 November
This year’s award ceremony will be held at the conclusion of the Zurich Gerontology Day on 22 November 2017 in the main lecture hall of the “Alte Kantonsschule”. To the program.