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Theo van Tilburg (PhD in Social Sciences in 1988) is professor of Sociology and Social Gerontology at the Department of Sociology, academic director of the Graduate School Social Sciences, director of the research program ‘Participation in Society (PARIS): Social Context of Aging’, and board member and senior researcher of the ‘Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam’, an ongoing interdisciplinary study into aspects of aging since 1991.


His research focuses on the social functioning of older adults, in particular the family; the personal network; social support, and informal help and care; and loneliness. These topics are studied from the perspectives of individual change trajectories and societal change across birth cohorts. He also studies interventions to improve one’s social living conditions.

Van Tilburg published more than 250 scientific articles, book chapters, professional publications and publications aimed at the general public. His work is widely cited (H = 36 in ISI and 56 in Google Scholar). He supervised PhD theses (twenty completed and seven in progress). He received a five-year fellowship of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (1989), and various large grants from NWO and ZonMw. In that research he collaborates with researchers from various other faculties of Vrije Universiteit (e.g. epidemiology, psychiatry, health sciences) and with researchers from universities of applied sciences (HvA, HAN).


He taught various courses, both at the bachelor and master level, and post graduate, and both in sociology and in research methods. Currently he teaches Introduction to sociology: Modern Societies, and a course on multivariate methods.

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Ancillary activities

Academic service

He was multiple times member of the faculty board and served as vice-dean and in the portfolio research and portfolio education. He was external member of the approval panel of a MSc program in the UK. For research he had a variety of functions, such as: associate editor and board member of various international journals; advisor in various research projects; chair of the VENI Selection Committee MaGW; chair of the Open competition Selection Committee MaGW; chair of the Academy of Finland’s review panel Social Sciences; member of the Appeal Committee NWO/ZonMw.

Other service

He is member of the approval committee Interventions in the domain of Societal Support, Participation and Safety. He is Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America. He advised the national Coalition against loneliness, the municipality of Amsterdam, and the Minister of Health on strategies against loneliness.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities


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