Dr. Gene D. Cohen, former NIA deputy director and acting NIA director from 1988 to 1993, died November 7 at his home in Kensington, MD, after a long battle with cancer.
“We will remember Gene Cohen as a talented and dedicated scientist as well as a kind and compassionate friend and mentor to many at NIH and in the aging community,” said NIA Director Dr. Richard J. Hodes.
Dr. Cohen was a pioneer in the field of geriatric psychiatry who in later years turned his focus from the problems of aging to the creative potential of older people. His U.S. Public Health Service career began as a commissioned officer at the National Institute of Mental Health, where he was the first chief of the Center on Aging.
Dr. Cohen maintained his commitment to biological, psychological, and social issues in geriatric medicine when he moved to the NIA. Over the years, he was involved in many groundbreaking Alzheimer’s disease initiatives, including a task force that resulted in a 1984 report that helped increase federal support for Alzheimer’s research. In 1994, Dr. Cohen became the first director of the Center on Aging, Health, and Humanities at George Washington University in Washington, DC.
Dr. Cohen’s interest in creativity in older adults brought a new view to aging, which he interpreted with the development of interactive and intergenerational games. His most recent game, Making Memories Together, helps families and caregivers recognize the untapped imaginative potential of Alzheimer’s patients.
“Gene Cohen was a renaissance man, merging mental health and aging research outcomes with the nourishment of creativity in older people,” said Dr. Marie Bernard, NIA deputy director. “He was a perpetual presence at meetings of the Gerontological Society of America, distinguished by his bow tie, curly hair, and welcoming smile. He will be missed in the aging research community.”