Aging gracefully: lifespan vs. healthspan.

Position::The Elderly

Scientists say the field of aging research is on the threshold of a new way of thinking--shifting focus from specific age-related illnesses to searching to understand aging itself as a biological process, according to a report prepared by Public Agenda for the Alliance for Aging Research and the American Federation for Aging Research. Today's goal is extending the healthspan, not just the lifespan. The idea is to keep older people productive longer.

In the study, scientists identified three major factors that are driving progress in this field: studies in genetics, development of new technology, and integration of knowledge from different fields. "The change in thinking is really what leapt out at me," marvels Ruth A. Wooden, president of Public Agenda, of "The Science of Aging Gracefully."

"The aging research field is thinking expansively and putting the disparate pieces together. But the real question is whether our funding system, which silos dollars into specific disease categories, hinders scientists from making the breakthroughs they envision."

"Understanding the aging process--those basic fundamental mechanisms of aging--will help us understand how major geriatric diseases like cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, and other neurodegenerative conditions develop and progress," declares Stephanie Lederman, executive director of the American Federation for Aging Research. "An investment in aging research is ultimately an investment in disease specific research."

"This study highlights the tremendous promise of aging research and the public's understanding of its importance," concurs Daniel Perry, executive director of the...

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