Jennifer Carson, Ph.D.

Clinical Associate Professor, Director, Dementia Engagement, Education and Research Program
Headshot of Jennifer Carson


Dr. Jennifer Carson, Ph.D., works to envision and develop opportunities for individual, organizational and collective growth to combat ageism and ableism, and to improve the inclusion and well-being of elders, with a special focus on persons living with dementia. Dr. Carson, a critical gerontologist, is the Founding Director of the Dementia Engagement, Education and Research (DEER) Program in the School of Public Health at the University of Nevada, Reno. To this role, Dr. Carson brings a commitment to service, collaboration and innovation built upon more than 35 years of practical experience in long-term care and aging services.

As a community-engaged researcher, Dr. Carson spends much of her time working with tribal, rural and urban communities as Director of the Dementia Friendly Nevada initiative, sponsored by the State of Nevada Aging and Disability Services Division (ADSD) and Division of Public and Behavioral Health (DPBH), and teaching professional and family care partners as the author and facilitator of Bravo Zulu: Achieving Excellence in Relationship-Centered Dementia Care, a comprehensive, 12-hour dementia education program developed in partnership with the Nevada Department of Veterans Services. Bravo Zulu was recently nominated for an Abraham Lincoln Pillars of Excellence Award from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Dr. Carson also partners with the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine’s Sanford Center for Aging on a U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program grant. Her role is to provide comprehensive education for family and professional care partners as part of the Improving Care of Elders through Community and Academic Partnerships (ICECAP Nevada) initiative, which includes interprofessional geriatrics and dementia care training for primary care providers, health professions students, long-term care professionals and family care partners. Dr. Carson recently received the 2022 Laura Joyner Award from the Mensa Foundation, which recognizes outstanding work in the area of human intelligence, for her innovative program development focused on brain health promotion and risk reduction across the life course, including after a dementia diagnosis. 

In addition to her grant-funded projects, Dr. Carson also contracts with long-term care, senior living, and not-for-profit organizations across North America on collaborative research- and education-focused initiatives, guided by participatory action research. Some of these initiatives have earned Dr. Carson and her partners prestigious awards and recognitions, including Schlegel-University of Waterloo Research Institute for Aging’s Working Together to Put Living First, recognized with a 2011 Excellence in Aging Services Award by the International Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, and LIVING the Dementia Journey, which received the Ontario Long-Term Care Association’s Innovation Award in 2017, and was recognized by the Argentum Memory Care Executive Peer Group as one of the top innovations in 2016. Recently, Dr. Carson worked in partnership with Carol Woods Retirement Community on a dementia inclusion project called The Quest Upstream, which received a 2018 Facility Best Practice Award from Friends of Residents in Long-Term Care, was identified as a ‘Pioneering Approach to Memory Care’ by CARF International, and was highlighted in Moira Welsh’s (2021) book, Happily Ever Older: Revolutionary Approaches to Long-Term Care.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Carson played a leadership role in the development, implementation and evaluation of the Nevada COVID-19 Aging Network rapid response, or Nevada CAN, led by ADSD. In addition to serving as a co-lead for the overall initiative, she led Nevada CAN’s NEST Collaborative (NEST = Nevada Ensures Support Together), which provides volunteer-hosted virtual social support and technology assistance to homebound elders, adults living with disabilities, and veterans. Prior to the pandemic, Dr. Carson completed a North American tour as a co-creator and cast member of Disrupt Dementia, part of Dr. Bill Thomas’ international Changing Aging Tour. With a strong commitment to partnerships and participatory approaches to research and practice, Dr. Carson’s career and scholarship encompass gerontology, dementia, long-term care, culture change, and leisure and aging.

Selected publications



  • Kontos, P., Radnofsky, M. L., Fehr, P., Belleville, M. R., Bottenberg, F., Fridley, M., Massad, S., Grigorovich, A., Carson, J., Rogenski, K., Carpenter, K. S., Dupuis, S., Battalen, J., McDonagh, D., Fassbender, K., & Whitehouse, P. (2021). Separate and Unequal: A Time to Reimagine Dementia. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease: JAD, 80(4), 1395–1399.


  • De Witt, L., Lopez, K., Dupuis, S., McAiney, C., Ploeg, J., & Carson, J. (2020). Dawn work: Building a relational foundation for appreciative inquiry. AI Practitioner, 22, 79-98.


  • Reed, P., Carson, J., & Gibb, Z. (2017). Transcending the tragedy discourse of dementia: An ethical imperative for promoting selfhood, meaningful relationships, and well-being. AMA Journal of Ethics, 19(7), 693-703.
  • Dupuis, S.L., Whyte, C., & Carson, J. (2017). Aligning therapeutic recreation with culture change values. In J.J. Bannon (Ed.), Problem Solving in Recreation and Parks (147-151). Champaign, IL: Sagamore Publishing.


  • Carson, J., Brown, S., d'Avernas, J., Dunn, H. (2015). Working Together to Put LIVING First: A Guidebook to Change the Culture of Aging in Long-Term Care. Schlegel-University of Waterloo Research Institute for Aging Publication.
  • Dupuis, S.L., Mitchell, G., Jonas-Simpson, C., Whyte, C., Gillies, J., & Carson, J. 2015. Igniting transformative change in dementia care through research-based drama. Gerontologist, 1–11, doi:10.1093/geront/gnv062.


  • Dupuis, S.L., Whyte, C., Carson, J., Genoe, R., Meschino. L.M., & Sadler, L. 2012. Just dance with me: An authentic partnership approach in understanding leisure in the dementia context. World Leisure Journal on Leisure, Health, and Disability. 54(3), 240-254.
  • Dupuis, S.L., Gillies, J., Carson, J., Whyte, C., Genoe, R., Loiselle, L., & Sadler, L. 2012. Moving beyond patient and client approaches: Mobilizing authentic partnerships in dementia care. Dementia: The International Journal of Social Research and Practice, 11(4), 428-450.
  • Jonas-Simpson, C., Mitchell, G., Carson, J., Whyte, C., Dupuis, S.L., & Gillies. J. 2012. Phenomenological shifts for healthcare professionals after experiencing a research-based drama on living with dementia. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 68(9), 1944-1955.
  • Carson, J. & d’Avernas, J. 2012. Working together to put living first: Appreciative culture change in long-term care. Appreciative Inquiry Practitioner: Special Video Issue, 14(5) 13-14.


  • Dupuis, S.L., Gillies, J., Mitchell, G., Jonas-Simpson, C., Whyte, C., & Carson, J. 2011. Catapulting shifts in images, understandings and actions for family members through research-based drama. Family Relations, 60, 104-120.
  • Dupuis, S.L., Whyte, C., & Carson, J. 2011. Leisure in long-term care settings. In H. Gibson & J. Singleton (Eds.), Leisure and Aging: Theory and Practice (217-237). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
  • Mitchell, G., Dupuis, S.L., Jonas-Simpson, C., Whyte, C., Carson, J., & Gillies, J. 2011. The experience of engaging with research-based drama: Evaluation and explication of synergy and transformation. Qualitative Inquiry, 17(4) 379-392.


  • Battisto, D., Carson, J.D., Conti, A., Parks, A., & Voelkl, J.E. 2005. Perceptions of public areas in long-term care environments: Activity spaces or therapeutic places. Annual in Therapeutic Recreation, 14, 85-97.


  • Voelkl, J.E., Battisto, D., Carson, J.D., & McGuire, F.A. 2004. A family model of care: Supporting nursing home residents’ continued growth and development. World Leisure Journal, 46(3), 18-29.
  • Voelkl, J.E. & Carson, J.D. 2004. Disability and leisure lifestyles. In G. Cross (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Recreation and Leisure in America. New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons Reference Books.


  • Ph.D. in Recreation and Leisure Studies (Aging, Health and Well-Being), University of Waterloo
  • MS in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management (Therapeutic Recreation), Clemson University
  • BA in Physical Education, Health and Recreation (Therapeutic Recreation), Eastern Washington University