The Nilsens will illustrate ways that humor helps people face the challenges of growing old. They will discuss some of the differences between growing old as a male and growing old as a female, and also how growing old differs in a capitalistic society like the United States, as compared to a traditional society like Afghanistan, where they lived for two years in the late 1960s. The Nilsens hope that audience members will come ready to share some of their own favorite jokes related to this period of life, which virtually all humans hope to experience.
The Nilsens joined the faculty of Arizona State University in the early 1970s. Don Nilsen holds a Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Michigan, while Alleen Nilsen holds a Ph.D. in English education from the University of Iowa. During the 1980s, with support from the Arizona Humanities Council, the Nilsens sponsored six national and international humor conferences, all of which were held at ASU. These conferences laid the foundation for the founding of the International Society for Humor Studies, for which the Nilsens act as leaders. Since 2011, the Nilsens have been active in ASU’s Emeritus College, Don Nilsen serving as the Assistant Dean for the Humanities and Alleen Nilsen serving as the Editor of Emeritus Voices.