Berlin Aging Study (BASE)

The multidisciplinary Berlin Aging Study (BASE), initially directed by the late Paul B. Baltes and Karl Ulrich Mayer, was started in 1989 under the sponsorship of the former West Berlin Academy of Sciences and Technology and its Committee on Age and Societal Development. Later, the study came under the auspices of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences. Ulman Lindenberger heads the current BASE core group at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development.

BASE Characteristics

The study involves eight measurement occasions spaced over 18 years. In addition, several subsamples have been recruited for intensive study. The distinguishing features of BASE include:

  • a focus on the very old (70 to 100+ years);
  • a locally representative sample, stratified by age and sex;
  • a broad-based interdisciplinarity (originally involving two research units from the Freie Universität Berlin, Internal Medicine and Psychiatry, and two from this Institute, Sociology and Psychology)
  • the investigation of changes associated with aging and death in the very old

In addition to discipline-specific topics, four integrative theoretical orientations guide the study:

  • differential aging
  • continuity versus discontinuity of aging
  • range and limits of plasticity and reserve capacity
  • aging as a systemic phenomenon

BASE in More Depth

The initial focus of BASE (1990–1993) was to obtain a heterogeneous sample, stratified by age and sex, of individuals aged 70 to 100+ years who completed a 14-session Intensive Protocol that involved detailed measures from each of the four participating disciplines. The original sample participating in this initial Intensive Protocol consisted of 258 men and 258 women from the western districts of Berlin. Seven longitudinal follow-ups of the survivors from this initial sample involving different depths of assessment have been completed at approximately 2-yearly intervals. In addition, mortality information about the entire BASE sample is updated at regular intervals.

The initial sample of 516 individuals formed the basis of the cross-sectional analyses reported in two monographs (in German: Mayer & Baltes, 1996, 1999; cf. Lindenberger, Smith, Mayer, & Baltes, 2010; in English: Baltes & Mayer, 1999, 2001). To date, longitudinal data in BASE are available for eight measurement occasions spanning more than 18 years. Most of the 516 individuals who participated in the 14-session multidisciplinary assessment at the first measurement occasion about 20 years ago are no longer alive. At the eighth (and probably final) measurement occasion in 2008–2009, 22 surviving participants were reexamined, with a focus on psychological, geriatric, and dental assessments.

Data from the Berlin Aging Study continue to provide the basis for new original publications on individual differences in late-life development. Furthermore, DNA specimens, derived from blood collected over 20 years ago, have been retrieved and analyzed for about 380 BASE participants. Adding genetic information to the BASE data set allows researchers to explore and test genetic contributions to individual differences in late-life development.

Core Group

  • Andreas M. Brandmaier, Max Planck Institute for Human Development
  • Julia Delius, Max Planck Institute for Human Development
  • Alexandra M. Freund, Universität Zürich
  • Denis Gerstorf, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
  • Paolo Ghisletta, Universität Genf
  • Christiane Hoppmann, University of British Columbia
  • Ulman Lindenberger (Speaker), Max Planck Institute for Human Development
  • Nilam Ram, Penn State University
  • Jacqui Smith (Co-Speaker), University of Michigan
  • Ursula M. Staudinger, Columbia University
  • Elisabeth Steinhagen-Thiessen, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin
  • Gert G. Wagner, Max Planck Institute for Human Development

The Berlin Aging Studies BASE and BASE-II participated in this EU-funded project together with the Formal Methods project. It integrated data from 6000 participants in 11 European neuroimaging studies carried out in 7 countries and ended in 2023. more


Key Publications

Click here for the complete BASE publication list.

Delius, J. A. M., Düzel, S., Gerstorf, D., & Lindenberger, U. (2015). Berlin Aging Studies (BASE and BASE-II). In N. A. Pachana (Ed.), Encyclopedia of geropsychology [Online version]. Springer.
Lindenberger, U., Smith, J., Mayer, K. U., & Baltes, P. B. (Eds.). (2010). Die Berliner Altersstudie (3rd ext. ed.). Akademie Verlag.
Baltes, P. B., & Mayer, K. U. (Eds.). (2001). The Berlin Aging Study: Aging from 70 to 100 (First paperback printing). Cambridge University Press.
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