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Vontobel Award: Systematic Remembering and Similar Surgical Consequences

This year’s Vontobel Award for Research on Age(ing) goes to Burcu Demiray Batur from the University of Zurich, Jonathan Rychen from the University Hospital of Basel and Sarah Stricker from the Hôpital Necker in Paris. Sarah Ziegler from UZH is the winner of the 2019 recognition prize.


Gerontological research helps to maintain the quality of life of older people. (Image:

Burcu Demiray Batur, who leads a research group in the Gerontopsychology section of the Department of Psychology at the University of Zurich, has been awarded a Vontobel Award worth 12,500 Swiss francs for her outstanding achievements in the field of gerontology. Her research investigates the use of memory among elderly people in everyday life. Previous research into this topic has mainly consisted of data from surveys or experimental studies, but failed to address how memory is used systematically in everyday life to shape social relationships. The results show that elderly people use their cognitive capabilities in a targeted and flexible manner to shape important processes of social interaction, both within and outside their families.

A further award, also worth 12,500 Swiss francs, has been given to Jonathan Rychen, resident physician at the University Hospital of Basel, and Sarah Stricker, resident physician at the Hôpital Necker in Paris. They collected, for the first time, data on the consequences of surgical procedures for the spine in nonagenarians. The results of their study suggest that the consequences of surgical interventions in nonagenarians do not differ significantly from those in younger people. There is thus no reason why diagnostics, examinations, prognoses and follow-up care should be any different for people in old age.

Furthermore, Sarah Ziegler, a postdoctoral researcher at UZH’s Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Prevention Institute, has been awarded the recognition prize, worth 5,000 Swiss francs. She investigated the influence of different care settings on preserving quality of life until death. Her research found, for example, that people over the age of 80 in hospitals, patients who have been diagnosed with cancer, and unmarried patients in nursing homes are given deep sedation less often than other patients.