The National Institute on Aging: Strategic Directions for Research, 2020-2025
From the Director
I am pleased to present the strategic directions of the National Institute on Aging (NIA) for 2020-2025. Today, there are more Americans ages 65 and older — just over 49 million, according to the U.S. Census — than at any other time in history, and we expect these numbers to grow as more Baby Boomers (individuals born between 1946 and 1964) reach retirement age. We can attribute this unprecedented demographic shift to a variety of factors, many of which benefit people of all ages. For example, even within the lifetimes of today’s older Americans, infectious diseases that once cut millions of lives short have been largely controlled in the U.S., and public health campaigns and policy changes — for example, smoking cessation efforts and laws mandating seat belt use — have saved many more lives.
Despite these advances, aging itself remains the most significant risk factor for many chronic diseases and conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease and related forms of dementia (AD/ADRD), most types of cancer, many types of heart disease, osteoporosis and hip fracture, kidney failure, and diabetes. While these diseases are rarely inevitable, it is probable that as the number of older Americans increases, so too will the number of people with age-related diseases. A significant increase in the number of individuals with serious chronic conditions will have profound social and economic effects on the nation.
NIA is meeting these challenges through its ongoing mission to:
Support and conduct genetic, biological, clinical, behavioral, social, and economic research on aging.
Foster the development of research and clinician scientists in aging.
Provide research resources.
Disseminate information about aging and advances in research to the public, health care professionals, and the scientific community, among a variety of audiences.
Our primary activities include funding extramural research at universities and research centers across the U.S. and around the world; maintaining an active communications and outreach program; and conducting a vibrant intramural research program at NIA laboratories in Baltimore and Bethesda, Maryland. In addition, as the lead federal agency for research on AD/ADRD, NIA has received an unprecedented influx of funding targeted toward understanding and addressing these conditions over the past seven years, and our plans and priorities reflect this extraordinary opportunity for discovery.
This document presents our scientific priorities for the next five years. Consistent with guidance in the 21st Century Cures Act, we also lay out our goals and objectives with respect to some of the “behind the scenes” activities we conduct in order to support the science. It is our hope that this description of our priorities is useful to you, whether you’re an independent researcher, an advocate, or an interested layperson.
For up-to-date information about NIA’s activities, priorities, and advances, I invite you to visit our web site at www.nia.nih.gov.
Richard J. Hodes, M.D.
The National Institute on Aging
The National Institute on Aging (NIA) is one of 27 Institutes and Centers of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Our mission encompasses basic, translational, and clinical research; training and career support for investigators at all levels; resource allocation; and health communication to a range of audiences. Congress established the NIA in 1974 to lead a national scientific effort to understand the nature of aging in order to promote the health and well-being of older adults. The Institute was subsequently designated as the lead within NIH for research on Alzheimer’s disease and related forms of dementia (AD/ADRD).
NIA pursues its mission by funding extramural research at universities and medical centers across the U.S. and around the world; maintaining an active communications and outreach program; and conducting a vibrant intramural research program at NIA laboratories in Baltimore and Bethesda, Maryland.
Public Law 93-296 authorizes the establishment of a National Institute on Aging and requires that the institute develop a national comprehensive plan to coordinate the Health, Education, Welfare (HEW) agencies involved in aging research. The Institute’s purpose, functions, and certain activities are described in 42 U.S. Code §285e.
About This Document
This document outlines NIA’s broad strategic directions. It provides a point of reference for setting priorities and a framework for systematically analyzing the Institute’s scientific portfolio and assessing progress. NIA developed and refined these goals over a one-year period, receiving valuable input and feedback from stakeholders in the research community, nongovernmental organizations, partners within NIH and elsewhere within the federal government, and members of the general public via a November 2018 Request for Information. We will update the document as needed as the field of aging research evolves.
Our goals are as follows:
Understanding the Dynamics of the Aging Process
- Goal A: Better understand the biology of aging and its impact on the prevention, progression, and prognosis of disease and disability.
- Goal B: Better understand the effects of personal, interpersonal, and societal factors on aging, including the mechanisms through which these factors exert their effects.
Improving the Health, Well-Being, and Independence of Adults as They Age
- Goal C: Develop effective interventions to maintain health, well-being, and function and prevent or reduce the burden of age-related diseases, disorders, and disabilities.
- Goal D: Improve our understanding of the aging brain, Alzheimer’s disease, related dementias, and other neurodegenerative diseases. Develop interventions to address Alzheimer’s and other age-related neurological conditions.
- Goal E: Improve our understanding of the consequences of an aging society to inform intervention development and policy decisions.
- Goal F: Understand health disparities related to aging and develop strategies to improve the health status of older adults in diverse populations.
Supporting the Research Enterprise
- Goal G: Support the infrastructure and resources needed to promote high-quality research.
- Goal H: Disseminate information to the public; scientific and medical communities; stakeholder advocacy, community and older adult-support organizations; the media; and policymakers about research and interventions.
- Goal I: Effectively steward public resources.
Our vision is to enable all Americans to enjoy robust health and independence with advancing age.