« PreviousContinue »
I am not an expert on aging in any sense. As à pathologist and physician, however, I am well aware of the tremendous need for more knowledge concerning the biological processes involved in aging. Greater understanding of bodily changes with advancing years will surely result in the improved health of the aged and aging.
I am inadequately informed to hold any opinion as to the adequacy of present governmental support of research in this field. I believe that knowledge already gained is applicable to the improved care of oldsters. There is need for greater appreciation by patients as well as physicians that the conservation of health and vigor is a lifelong program requiring continued vigilance and a long-term point of view.. Too often, both patients and physician focus almost solely on the isolated episodes of illness, each taken for its own sake and not considered adequately in relation to the whole health assets of the particular patient. Con tinuity of health management and long-term goals of health conservation need greater emphasis.
For gains in knowledge we need not only money but the time of knowledgeable men. Specifically, greater support of regular academic programs of medical and other scientific educational programs is needed probably to strengthen teaching, to promote recruitment of the gifted by the appeal of teaching excellence, and more free time by faculty members for the discovery and effective communication of new knowledge. No amount of research funds can free the scientist-teacher and researcher whose time is almost used up by teaching and service responsibilities. While there is a place for purely research institutions, I feel our greatest research potential lies in our medical and other scientific institutions provided resources of manpower, space, and other needs become adequate to meet the needs, not only of teaching and service, but also to allow time of scientists for the discovery and communication of new knowledge to others.--Robert W. Mowry.
As a reinforcement to my earlier comments on social science research, I might add that while some funds for research are available through the National Science Foundation, here, again, the social sciences, in general, are badly underdeveloped. If more funds and programs were made available to social scientists through the National Science Foundation, this would greatly assist the development of basic research and advanced professional training in social gerontology.-Harold L. Orbach.
As a preface to my answers to the questions asked by your committee, I would like to state that a study of the aging process in the central and peripheral nervous system has been under my direction, as principal investigator, for the past 422 years. Research funds for partial support of this study were provided, for a 3year period, by the Public Health Service, National Institutes of Health. Subsequent applications for funds to continue this study were not approved, which has forced us to nearly suspend our work on this project. However, we are able, for the present, to maintain this valuable animal colony. Unless the newly submitted applications for support by the National Institutes of Health are approved, the entire study will be terminated on or before January 1, 1961. This curtailment of support has already resulted in the loss of four people who had been especially trained for work on the aging project. The research cost to the principal investigator cannot be measured, since lost time can never be recovered. There are only certain questions, of those asked, which I feel qualified to
The views expressed are strictly my own and are based upon personal experience as an active research neurophysiologist in the field of aging.
I am very happy to know that there is some serious consideration being given to the important problem of the biological aspect of the aging process. In the event your committee desires additional information, I shall be very happy to cooperate in any way possible.—Ernest Retzlaff.
Financial support of scientific research in the public welfare is an established and well-justified policy of Government. A continuing evolution of this policy can be expected, especially as new spheres of intellectual activity are developed. It would seem 'economically and, Î think, scientifically desirable to keep the administration of these areas of support as broad as possbile to avoid duplication and splintering with resultant gain in nonproductive cost and loss of public interest and support.-John Robert Ring.
As a physiologist with sound training in all of the physical sciences, including mathematics, physical chemistry, and biochemistry, who has been concerned with elaborating the nature of the aging process in terms of biochemical-physiological changes with age, I have been especially struck with the need for a more cohesive, intergrated program of governmental support of intramural as well as extragovernmental (university and medical school) research on aging. At present, any existent program is relatively diffuse and decentralized. Indeed, there is no distinct program in gerontology as such, although the establishment of a liaison Center for Research on Aging within the National Institutes of Health is a step in this direction.
It is my own studied opinion that the ultimate step is the establishment of an Institute of Gerontology within the National Institutes of Health, with administrative and advisory structures parallelling those of existing Institutes. Failing that for the present at least, establishment of Study Sections on Aging within each of the already existent National Institutes of Health is highly desirable.
In conjunction with the above, it is most desirable to widen the present rather limited range of research projects on the nature of the aging process. This can be done in two ways:
1. Encourage expansion on the part of the relatively few experienced, authoritative biological and medical researchers in gerontology of their
research programs, through highly expanded budgetary allotments to gerontology per se. (See specific answers to your questions below.) In addition, the Institutes of Health involved (preferably an Institute of Gerontology) should establish chairs of gerontology in various universities and medical schools to insure long-range pursuit of studies in aging by competent and experienced research scientists dedicated to a lifetime of research in gerontology.
2. Expand research interest and participation in gerontology to attract scientists from cognate disciplines in biology and the physical sciences by establishing career and lifetime investigatorships (such as is done by the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society) in universities and medical schools. This would not only attract but also keep the most able and dedicated investigators in this relatively young but growing field. Financing such programs would probably involve fairly sizable endowments at the outset on the part of the governments. It is more questionable as to whether collaborative support, such as is possible in the case of more dramatic and morbid diseases like cancer, heart disease, and poliomyelitis, could be marshaled for the case of senescence and problems of aging, at least in the immediate future.
At the wider, research program level, it is also imminently imperative that grants in aging, whatever their origin, be made on a long-range support basis because of the peculiar nature of the problem itself. At the present, the 5-year maximum support available on a year-to-year commitment basis not only discourages bold pursuit of new (and sometimes daring) ideas on the part of established scientists but also prevents such investigators from attracting and keeping competent technical (as well as professional) personnel in such studies. Rather than a year-to-year commitment, with a maximum support of 5 years (under the present system), a minimum of 10 years' committed support to research studies in aging should be the rule, subject to biennial review.
The above represent specific points about which I have thought considerably, as a grateful recipient of research grant assistance from the Federal Government, in my pursuit of the clarification of the nature of the aging process. I have no objection to being quoted verbatim or in paraphrased form. The following are specific answers to your questions of August 12:
As a scientist, I am appreciative of the sincere and dedicated efforts of the many hard-working scientists and administrators, within and without the National Institutes of Health, who are concerned with research grants administration. I trust, therefore, that these frank and sincere suggestions and opinions will be received in the same spirit of constructive advice as which they are offered.
I should also like to express my own appreciation to you specifically (and the subcommittee as a whole) for your expressed interest in the obvious need for expansion and coordination in this ever-growing and important field of gerontology.—Morris Rockstein.
(a) I feel that both intramural and grant programs are too limited, both by time and money, under the present system.
(6) It has been difficult to compare experimental procedures on animals with humans due to lack of physical equipment for the latter.
(c) I think that the small unit system as used in certain places in England, namely, Wimbledon, is best adapted for geriatric care.
In summary I think that projects in aging require adequate equipment, time, and personnel.-James B. Rogers.
I would hope that there would be a periodic rev of the problems of stimulating good research by Government, in a manner which is suggested by your incisive letter and its followup, in a brief conference of independent researchers. Conditions change in the research field, as in all others, so that a review of this sort every 5 years is highly desirable.—Arnold Rose.
Margaret Gordon has already replied to your letter of August 12 concerning research in the field of aging. We have discussed the matter together and you can regard my views as essentially those which she has expressed.—Arthur M. Ross.
One general comment: The recent interest in the aging as a population group with special problems has led to increased research support for problems investigating questions pertaining to older people, say beyond age 65. It is still difficult to obtain support for truly gerontological research investigating problems over the entire adult lifespan. Since current retirement ages are arbitrary and differ from one field to the next it is important to keep in mind that any question deserving inquiry with respect to the aging variable should properly be studied over the entire period of adulthood since we rarely know at which age significant age changes do occur. My special plea therefore is for a view of and interest in aging as a lifelong process, rather than being confined to interest in a specific age group.K. Warner Schaie.
Problems of aging concern a wide area of medical and biological and social sciences, and it is necessary to develop an expanded, well balanced program which should take into consideration possible contribution of individual research projects for the future as well as for the already pressing problems created by the growing increase of our older population. Government support of these problems is essential and will have to be increased if knowledge to be derived from research on aging is to be available in the near future. -Henry P. Schwarz.
My experience and interest in the field of aging has been in large part limited to the collection and analysis of statistics in this field and therefore, I have little basis for making intelligent comment on the global problems of administration relating to research. In most general terms, my background predisposes me toward a preference for social science research as against medical biological research. Obviously, both sets of problems are important, but if one's concern is primarily for the welfare of older persons, it seems to me that the pertinent'answers are to be found in the study of the conditions under which they live.—Henry D. Sheldon.
In response to your request I am submitting my personal views on the need for research in the field of aging with some suggestions on how I think the needs can be met. I wish to emphasize that I am speaking only as an individual who has been engaged in full-time research on the physiological and psychological aspects of aging for the past 19 years, and not in any official capacity.
The development of effective action programs for the solution of problems arising from the increasing number of elderly people in the population depends on increasing our knowledge about the nature of the aging process, the effects of aging on various aspects of human performance, and the effects of specific programs on human behavior.
Because of the complexity of problems in aging, an interdisciplinary approach is essential. A closer association between research, teaching, and practice needs development. Studies on aging also require special facilities such as the availability of animals of a variety of species of known advanced ages. Furthermore, research should be extended into the community with investigations of what happens to normal people living in the community as they grow older. Such studies require the close collaboration between behavioral scientists and biologists. physiologists, and physicians.—Nathan Shock.
The following comment is based exclusively on the personal experience of an individual whose studies have for many years been supported to a large extent by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Because of lack of pertinent information on financial and most of the organizational problems in the field of aging, the answers will have to be incomplete regarding the latter aspects of the inquiry.
Research on aging may be divided into three major categories: (1) biological, (2) medico-clinical, and (3) psychological and social investigations. While biological and medical research have much in common and are to a large extent being taken care of by the various divisions of the NIH, they seem quite remote from that of psychological and social research on aging which are among the responsibilities of social and public welfare agencies.
Conclusions: Medico-biological research on aging should be separated from social research on aging. The former should be taken care of by the already existing Institutes of the NIH and the latter by those agencies that are in charge of social welfare at large. There seems to be no need or desirability for the creation of a National Institute of Gerontology. Some suggestions are made to expand the present procedures, in order to meet the needs of gerontological research.-Martin Silberberg.
Aging is a fundamental biological process of interest to all, laymen and scientists. The question is whether or not more intensive support of research on the natury of aging is in the public interest. I believe that it is.
The public should unquestionably benefit through a better understanding of the relationship between aging and disease, and the special problems of the aged. In the absence of specific information as to whether life span is limited, it is possible that the human life span may be increased. (This may not, however, be an unmixed blessing to society). Since a good part of this report deals with administrative matters, let us first classify some of the theories of aging as hopeful or fatalistic in regard to whether life span, as distinguished from life expectancy, can be lengthened.
For example, if aging results from the thermal lability of irreplacable macromolecules or from thermally induced random somatic noise in the genetic code, this is not very hopeful since deep freezes are not particularly attractive for people. On the other hand, if autoxidation and free radicals are involved, specific antioxidants might be devised to protect genes, cellular structure and connective tissue. If aging results from a relative specific cytodifferentiation of genetic material, this is hopeful, for one might determine what the change is, how it was brought about, and take the appropriate steps to correct this situation.
There is, therefore, a real possibility that life span can be altered. This, however, is not a certainty and the probability cannot be very accurately evaluated without further information,
Should this situation be changed? It could be if this were the wisdom of Congress, and they felt it was in the public interest. I believe that Congress should give the matter serious attention. The initiative for any rapid expansion of aging research eventually must come from the public and their representatives.
Another problem which indirectly affects the aging institute is that of holding the line against other special interest groups who want their own institutes. If an aging institute becomes feasible, there will still be the question of opening the floodgates to other institutes of doubtful merit.
Money will help promote research in aging. On the other hand, there is a heavy responsibility on the investigators of aging, regardless of the source of their support, to perform significant and provocative experiments and to interest through publications their professional colleagues in aging.-F. Marott Sinex.
In general, and due to my own experiences over the last 10 years in the field of experimental biological aging, I am disappointed in the progress that has been made in thiş field. This lack of progress may be due to some of the factors that
I have mentioned in attempting to answer your questions. One of our greatest problems is a lack of interest among scientists in this particular endeavor. This lack of interest in the biology of a ing is rather widespread. I have learned, for example, and much to my consternation that not a single biologist in my home State of North Carolina has been invited to attend the White House Conference on Aging. Questioning my colleagues from various parts of the country concerning this matter, I have found that this State is not alone in this lack. It is, of course, natural that people should be more interested in immediate social action programs in which they can see the immediate benefits than they would be in long-range biological research programs. However, as I pointed out in this letter, the ultimate solution of medical and social problems will depend upon knowledge obtained as a result of biological investigations.
If there is any further way that I can be of help to you or your committee, please do not hesitate in calling on me. You certainly have my permission to quote any part of the comments that I have made to you.- Norman M. Sulkin.
This letter is in response to your recent inquiry concerning research in the field of aging. The need for research is compelling. The problems related thereto are complex. I am pleased to have opportunity to offer some comments, though I do not feel qualified to respond helpfully to all of your questions. The nature of my comments is such that I shall take the liberty of departing somewhat from your outline.
Need for research: There is clearly need for vast amounts of research in all aspects of aging-biological, psychological, and social gerontological. Long life is now a common expectation with the result that the majority of people are living well into life cycle stages characterized by biological senescence, a multiplicity of pathologies, decrements and perhaps some increments in psychological capacities and functioning, and major changes in circumstances, roles, and social status, Simultaneously, cultural, economic, and technological changes are profound determinants in the status and personality integration of middle-aged and older adults and, conversely, the rising numbers of long-lived people are profoundly affecting the value system, functions, organization, and structure of society. Thus, advances in the knowledge of the processes of aging within the individual and of the complex of societal factors involved is essential both to aging and old people and to the whole society. There are scores of problems which call for understanding and resolution if health and well-being are to be concomitants of long life and if we are to achieve and maintain a vigorous and burden-free mature society.
Need for personnel: While the preceding matters constitute serious handicaps to the progress of research in aging, the greatest single handicap at the present time is undoubtedly the shortage of personnel trained, interested in, and qualified for research in the field. Fund-granting agencies commonly report that they do not receive as many satisfactory applications as they are able to support. Mature researchers report that it is difficult to interest graduate students and other young workers in research in aging.
The interuniversity training project in social gerontology has shown that giving status to the field does result in stimulating interest among social scientists and psychologists. On the basis of this experience, it would seem that expansion of training opportunities and subsidized traineeships would be likely to increase the supply of personnel.
The forthcoming White House Conference on Aging should help stimulate research interest. It may be anticipated that the States which are now developing recommendations and the Conference delegates will point to the need for more rapid advancement of gerontological research and for more research facilities in universities. It is likely that encouragement of the creation of additional university institutes of gerontology would lead to some expansion.
It may be added at this point that research problems in aging frequently call for interdisciplinary approaches and that this has been a major factor in the emergence of the new discipline of social gerontology. The most favorable environment for such research may well prove to be the multidisciplinary university institute, with sufficient personnel for broad exploratory researches and for the pursuit of varied lines of inquiry without the necessity for making a succession of specific project applications.-Člark Tibbitts.