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Extending Life, Enhancing Life: A National Research Agenda on Aging
productivity relationship in different settings (IOM, 1981; Sterns and Alexander, 1987; Spenner, 1988) so as to identify matches and mismatches between productive capacity of older workers and the personnel preferences and policies of business firms.
Adopting a life-course perspective that views today's younger adults as tomorrow's older adults should be paired with monitoring social change and the changing sociodemographic and health characteristics of populations. To the extent that children and younger adults at risk can be identified and helped, the elder population of the future will enjoy better health and well-being.
Research should be designed to provide a clearer understanding of individual differences in sensory, cognitive, and behavioral aging, particularly as these differences reflect relationships between brain and behavior, environment and behavior, and society and behavior. Applied and clinical research can translate into practice what is known about the modifiability of risk factors, skills, learning, and memory. Evaluation procedures need to be improved and effective interventions devised.
Research that addresses issues of population dynamics, includingthe question of whether morbidity is being postponed commensuratewith increases in longevity, is a further high priority.
Descriptive demography and epidemiology and techniques of population estimation have improved substantially in recent years (Hogan, 1985; Myers, 1985; Torrey et al., 1987; Guilford, 1988). Apart from the significance of immigration, two high priorities for research include (1) improved and continued forecasts of the future number of older persons, both in developed and developing nations, and (2) estimates of the proportion of those people who will be able or unable to function independently. Important work on forecasting is now under way in several research sites and is in continuing need of support. For the United States, sophisticated forecasts are now suggesting that, given a degree of control over well-known risk factors for heart disease, the size of the older population in the twenty-first century would exceed even the current high estimates (Manton, 1988). Unquestionably, the society will be confronted with unprecedented numbers of both healthy and disabled older people, and it is of critical importance that more be known about the interaction of factors—behavioral, social, and biological—that influence the time of onset of morbidity and disability as life expectancy continues to increase.
Comparative studies, such as epidemiological studies of cardiovascular disease among Japanese in different locations, are suggested