The Promise of Aging Research

  • Scientists who study aging are in general agreement that the process is not set in stone. The aging process can be sped up by genetics or poor lifestyle choices…but it can also be slowed down. This means that research that slows aging has the potential to extend healthy years of life and simultaneously postpone the costly and harmful conditions of old age.
  • These scientists are finding many processes that lead to the development of chronic diseases also contribute to the aging of our bodies.
  • The National Institutes of Health has recognized the value of aging research. Of the 27 institutes and centers at the NIH, 20 are now collaborating in a “Trans-NIH Geroscience Interest Group” in order to better understand the relationships between the biological processes of aging and age-related chronic diseases and disabilities.
  • At a time when medical research is feeling the financial pinch, Congress should consider a new funding model for coordinated research into aging across both the NIH and other federal health and research agencies. Such an approach would avoid a tap on existing funds as well as the “disease-versus-disease” battle that plagues NIH appropriations year after year.  Disease-specific research will always remain important, but this approach would augment collaboration and help lift all boats.
  • One of the most effective strategies in “bending the cost curve” in health care is preventing age-related chronic diseases in the first place. An October 2013 study published in Health Affairs hypothesizes that it will be possible by 2030 to develop interventions that increase human life expectancy at age 51 by 2.2 years—and that most of those added years would be spent in good health. These researchers also estimate that the increase in healthy years of life would have an economic benefit of approximately $7.1 trillion by the middle of this century.