The following article was received from Claudia Feldman, Deputy Office of Communications and Public Liaison, National Institute on Aging who granted permission to therubins for use on our site. We want to express our deepest thanks for the article and the permission to use it.
"National Institute on Aging 25th Anniversary
Research for the Second 50 Years of Life"
The study of aging is not what it used to be. Gerontology was a young science when Congress created the National Institute on Aging (NIA) in 1974 as part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Gerontology in its early stages focused on developing ways to explore the fundamentals of the aging process. Researchers studied normal aging and specific diseases associated with advancing age. For the public, the notion was widespread that aging equated with decline and illness.
Now, 25 years later, the science base has grown in depth, breadth, and detail. And with this growth have come new insights into the processes and the experience of aging, including the fundamental discovery that disease and disability are not necessarily concomitant with aging. Such discoveries have come at an opportune time.
Driving a growing interest in aging research is the dramatic increase in the older population. Today we face a century in which 75 million baby boomers will turn 65; we all stand to gain from a healthy, fully engaged older population. People over 65, who were just four percent of the U.S. population in 1900, currently comprise about 13 percent and will make up 20 percent by the year 2025. Research on aging is critical not only to help society adjust to the changes brought on by an aging society, but also to help people adapt to, perhaps even grow with, this fundamental change.
The remarkable lifespan that people have achieved during this century presents Americans with two important challenges for the century ahead: how to maintain the quality of life with advancing age, and how to produce cost-effective health care. Aging research will play a key role in addressing both concerns as NIA-funded research aims at improvements in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of health problems experienced by older adults.
Aging research casts a wide net. The institute's portfolio ranges from exploration into the most basic components of the cell to understanding the behavioral aspects of good health. Much of the basic research looks at the gradual of programmed changes in structure and function that characterize normal aging as well as the abnormal changes that accompany disease. Researchers who study the lifespan of genetically simple animals like worms and flies have identified several genes that are linked to longevity. The search is on to find out just how these genes, or their mutations, influence aging.
Where gerontologists once looked for a single, all-encompassing theory to explain aging- a single, gene, for instance, or the decline of the immune system-they are now finding multiple processes, combining and interacting on many levels. Cells, proteins, tissues, and organ systems all are involved, and gerontologists are now able to discern more and more of the mechanisms by which they cause or react to aging.
A dramatic case in point is Alzheimer's disease, a public health problem having a severe impact on millions of Americans and their families. Studies of Alzheimer's disease and its consequences are a major area of focus for NIA. Senility was once considered a natural consequence of aging, and Alzheimer's was thought of as a rare disease. Alzheimer's is now recognized as a disease that may be either treatable or preventable. Research has advanced from a small group of pioneers who conducted studies on the disease in the 1970's to thousands of scientists in laboratories, institutions, and communities all over the world. The pace of research is accelerating, and many scientists now believe effective treatments are not far in the future.
As the body of aging research matures, the value of this knowledge becomes increasingly clear. The factors that contribute to quality of life-health and health services, social supports, independence, and others-can be understood and defined only through research.
In fact today, 25 years after the establishment of the National Institute on Aging, the secrets to healthy aging are beginning to be revealed in much greater detail than ever before. And as more and more of them come to light, they promise to explain-and lead to cures for-the health problems that often accompany old age. At the turn of the millennium, we can say about the second 50 years of life: as we grow older, thanks to aging research, we are also growing wiser.
The web site for the National Institute on Aging can be found on http://www.nih.gov, which is the site for the National Institutes of Health. It is a great site to visit!!!
We also refer you to our article on the Administration on Aging
FOR AN INFORMATIVE AND PERSONAL ARTICLE ON PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS WHEN SELECTING A NURSING HOME SEE OUR ARTICLE "How to Select a Nursing Home"
May 2, 2000
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