than double in the coming decades unless the causes of disability can be identified and controlled (Schneider and Guralnick, 1990).

The following themes of risk and opportunity have guided the preparation of this report, and have justified support for the study of aging through scholarship and research:

  1. the need to control acute and chronic illness in old age and to achieve a major reduction in disability and suffering, thus not merely extending life but enhancing it; and

  2. the new opportunity offered by science to improve the quality of life for older persons through analysis and discovery of the relationships among basic biological phenomena, disease, economic and social deprivation, disability, and dependence.

Building on two reports by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), Our Future Selves (1978), and Toward an Independent Old Age: A National Plan for Research on Aging (1982), the present agenda aims to identify priority research on aging in basic biomedical science, clinical science, and behavioral and social studies as they relate to health, health services delivery, and biomedical ethics. To this end, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) convened a committee of 18 leaders in national health care, and charged them to:

  • identify for the next two decades priorities in research on aging that will contribute to the quality of life and maximize the independence of older persons;

  • stimulate research on the fundamental processes of aging and the prevention of disability and disease, and further the application of current knowledge to the treatment of age-related disorders;

  • alert scientists to promising but neglected areas of research on aging;

  • provide the stimulus that will encourage new investigators to undertake the study of aging, and continue to engage the interest of established researchers in this field;

  • estimate the resources required to fulfill the scientific needs for gerontological and geriatric research;

  • guide federal and nonfederal funding agencies in supporting this research, and identify collaborative and nonduplicative funding patterns for government, industry, and private sources of support; and

  • bring the importance of research on aging to the attention of government, private institutions, industry, the scientific community, and the public at large.

During the project the committee became convinced of the impor-

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