This document provides justification for the FY 2001 non-AIDS activities of the National Institute on Aging (NIA). Justification of NIH-wide FY 2001 AIDS activities can be found in the NIH section entitled "Office of AIDS Research (OAR)."
Since 1974, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) has led a national scientific effort to understand the nature of aging and to extend the healthy, active years of life for all Americans. This enterprise has rapidly expanded knowledge about the biological, behavioral, and social changes that occur with advancing age and has disproved stereotypes of inevitable decline as people grow older. Recent findings have revealed dramatic and unexpected reductions in rates of disability among older persons compared to projected levels. Researchers have also generated effective strategies that can maintain or even enhance older people’s physical and mental abilities. It is clear that much old age disability can be prevented. These advances have contributed to progress in public health, health care, and disease prevention, and are beneficial to people of all ages.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, life expectancy at birth in the U.S. has increased from less than 50 years to more than 76 years.1 The challenge for the 21st century will be to make these added years as healthy and productive as possible and to maintain the current trend of decline in disability. There is no time to lose in discovering how to age well. Only 12 years from now, 75 million babyboomers, people born between 1946 and 1964, will begin to turn 65. By the middle of the next century, the number of Americans over the age of 65 will double, and the number of Americans over age 85 will increase fivefold or more, placing a significantly greater number of people at risk for disease and disability.2 It is urgent to develop more effective treatments for age-related diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD), heart and vascular diseases, and cancer, and to prevent or delay the onset of disease and disability among older persons. Evidence shows that health research is making progress toward these goals.
During 1999, the NIA launched a nationwide Alzheimer’s disease (AD) prevention study, the Memory Impairment Study, that targets individuals with mild cognitive impairment. People with this newly recognized condition have a memory deficit beyond that expected for their age and education yet do not have other clinical signs of dementia. They also have a higher-than-normal chance of developing AD. The Memory Impairment Study will examine whether early
treatment of these relatively healthy and well-functioning people either with vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) or donapezil (Aricept) can prevent further cognitive decline, including development of AD.
As the NIA celebrates its 25th anniversary, NIA staff have been working with scientific organizations, public and private groups, and the National Advisory Council on Aging to develop a five-year strategic plan for aging research that will help communicate the Institute’s future research activities. This collaboration is proving helpful both in creating new objectives and in forging partnerships to implement them. The plan is expected to be presented early in 2000.
The following narrative includes stories of discovery on Alzheimer’s disease and on the benefits of exercise. Selected research advances are discussed under each of four main topic headings: Alzheimer’s Disease and the Neuroscience of Aging, Reducing Chronic Disease and Disability, Biology of Aging, and Behavioral and Social Research. The final section describes future research directions for selected topics in aging research.
- National Center for Health Statistics. Health, United States, 1999 With Health and Aging Chartbook. page 30, Hyattsville, MD: 1999.
- National Center for Health Statistics. Health, United States, 1999 With Health and Aging Chartbook. page 22, Hyattsville, MD: 1999.