Experts present new research on hot topics in aging at GSA's annual meeting in Washington, DC


Note to Editors: The Gerontological Society of America will host its 2004 Annual Scientific Meeting in Washington, DC, November 19-23. The following is a sampling of the more than 400 sessions scheduled for the five-day conference. Dates and times of the sessions described are in italics. Members of the press may register and customize their own schedule by visiting

Promoting The Health of an Aging Population: Experts Present New Research on Hot Topics in Aging at GSA's Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, November 19-23

Civic Engagement in Later Life: With the baby boom generation on the verge of retirement, there is an increasing awareness that older adults are a growing, and largely untapped, civic resource for responding to societal needs through both paid and unpaid work. However, as gerontologists have noted, demographics are changing faster than societal structures can adapt. As a result, there are already insufficient opportunities for meaningful civic engagement by today's older adults--much less the better educated, healthier, and longer-lived boomers of tomorrow. Join AARP Director of Academic Affairs Harry Moody and Professor Phyllis Moen of the University of Minnesota for an expert discussion on what the future holds for our aging society.
November 21 at 10:30 a.m.

Driving and Dementia in Older Adults: Ultimately, all persons suffering from dementing illnesses need to surrender driving. Identification of those unsafe drivers is becoming a serious health priority. Ideally, retirement from driving should occur as close to the optimal time as possible, neither too early, nor too late. Drivers with dementing illnesses often do not recognize that they are unsafe, fail to make needed modifications, and are at greatly increased risk for accidents. Cessation is often unplanned and abrupt.
November 22 at 5 p.m.

Federal Interagency Forum on Aging Related Statistics: The Forum has developed a half-day workshop to introduce their new report, "Older Americans 2004: Key Indicators of Well-Being," to GSA members. This updated and expanded report builds upon the Forum's first Older Americans report, which was released in 2000. Older Americans 2004 continues to monitor for health and well-being of older Americans through a broad range of indicators in five important areas: population, economics, health status, health risks, and behaviors, and health care. To help GSA members better understand these indicators, the workshop will feature presentations from the Forum experts who constructed the indicators and provided the data. The presentations will be highlight the new and revised indicators, discuss some of the important trends that have emerged, review the strengths and weaknesses of the data sources, as well as provide detailed information on how to access these data sources.
November 19 at 1:30 p.m.

The Keynote Address: GSA President Fox Wetle will welcome Dr. James Marks, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. In this position he has developed and advanced systematic ways to reduce or prevent the consequences of tobacco use and obesity and diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Through his leadership, CDC and public health have achieved for chronic disease prevention the kind of recognition and support that the previous century gave to the infectious disease arena.
November 19 at 7:30 p.m.

Promoting a Healthy Social Security: The Social Security program, while in short-range actuarial balance, is under-financed for the long term. In order to respond to the challenge of the baby boom and later beneficiaries, the long-term financing gap needs to be closed. This symposium offers further discussion of Social Security reforms and their potential impact on the future program and its beneficiaries by presenting results of current research. The benefit formula relates time in the workforce and wages to actual benefit amounts. How would changing the rates and the dollar amounts (bend points) in the current law Social Security benefit calculation formula affect various groups of beneficiaries, and ultimately would and/or how would such changes affect the adequacy and equity goals of Social Security?
November 20 at 8:30 a.m.

Medicare Discussions: There will be numerous sessions on the future of Medicare at the conference. Among them: Trends in Formal and Informal Home Care: The Impact of Medicare Payment Reform
November 20 at 1:30 p.m.
Medical Expenses and Health in Older Age
November 20 at 3:30 p.m.
Implementing the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit
November 21 at 3:30 p.m.
Consumer-Directed Home Care: Can a Medicaid Innovation be Transferred to Medicare?
November 22 at 10:30 a.m.
Medicare Reform: Examining the Implications of Choice
November 22 at 1:30 p.m.
Paying for Home Health Care Under Medicare: The Experiences of Rural Elders
November 23 at 8:30 a.m.

Vigor and Vitality in Later Life: Health Promotion for Older Adults: The rising number of older adults over the next several decades will be associated with an increased demand for health care services. Solutions to the question of how to promote the health of older adults will require contributions from a diverse set of groups and organizations. GSA's Research, Education, and Practice Committee will present a symposium titled "Vigor and Vitality in Later Life: Health Promotion for Older Adults" that will feature speakers representing four areas of contribution to health promotion.
November 22 at 3:15 p.m.

Maxwell Pollock Award for Productive Aging: Stephen McConnell, PhD, recipient of the 2003 Maxwell A. Pollack Award, will be presenting "Both Sides Now: Bridging Research and Policy on Capitol Hill." The presentation of the 2004 Maxwell A. Pollack Award will be to Kevin Mahoney, PhD. Introductions will be made by Terrie Fox Wetle, PhD.
November 21 at 1:45 p.m.

Results from the ACTIVE Study: ACTIVE (Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly) was a randomized, controlled, single-blind trial to evaluate if three cognitive training interventions (memory, reasoning, speed of processing) improved cognitive abilities and daily functioning in older, independent-living adults (n=2,802; mean age = 73.6 yrs). Participants were assessed at baseline, immediate post-test, 1 year, and 2 years with a comprehensive battery of cognitive tests and measures of function. Each training intervention improved the targeted cognitive ability, and effects were durable to two years. No training effects on daily function were detected at 2 years, likely because of minimal functional decline across all groups. A brief overview of the study design and primary outcomes will be presented.
November 21 at 3:30 p.m.

The Future of Long-Term Care: The future of long-term care is far from clear. All we know for sure is that the number of older people with long-term care needs will increase with the growth of the older population over the next 30/40 years. We also know that most states are experiencing a great deal of fiscal pressure in their Medicaid programs. This pressure is substantially a result of steady increases in the cost of long-term care (LTC) services for older people, mainly for nursing home care.
November 21 at 3:30 p.m.

Race and Socioeconomic Status: There is a dearth of data on health and function among older African-Americans. The Health, Aging and Body Composition Study, a study of 3,075 men and women aged 70-79, at two sites - Pittsburgh and Memphis, with no reported difficulty walking 1/4 mile, walking up 10 steps, or performing ADL, was designed to assess whether risk factors for functional decline were similar in Blacks and Whites of the same age and reported functional status at the start of the study. This symposium contrasts race, gender, and socioeconomic status differences at baseline and over time.
November 22 at 8:30 a.m.

The Genetics of Exceptional Survival: The NIA funded Pacific Genetic Epidemiologic Study on Aging (PacGen) was designed to explore and develop studies of the genetics for longevity in the Japanese Americans of Hawaii, one of the longest lived populations in the world. PacGen has developed a multidisciplinary research team to investigate exceptional survival in the Honolulu Heart Program (HHP), a study of 8,006 Japanese American men born between 1900 and 1919, and their families in Hawaii, now in its 4th decade of follow-up. This symposium will highlight some of these accomplishments of PacGen.
November 22 at 8:30 a.m.

Understanding Progeria: Progeria, the Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome (HGPS) (from the Greek for premature aging), is a rare disease of childhood with striking features resembling premature aging. Other "premature aging syndromes", such as Werner syndrome (progeria of the adult) and Down syndrome, have provided valuable information regarding the phenomenon of aging. Important clues about aging may also result from understanding the pathogenic mechanisms involved in HGPS. This symposium will present an overview of HGPS and the latest research on the disorder, as well as cover funding opportunities.
November 22 at 10:30 a.m.

M. Powell Lawton Award Lecture: Barry Gurland, MD, recipient of the 2003 M. Powell Lawton Award, will be presenting "Choices, Choosing, and the Nature of Quality of Life." Dr. Gurland will be introduced by Terry Fulmer, PhD, RN, FAAN. Presentation of the 2004 M. Powell Lawton Award will be to Steven Zarit, PhD.
November 22 at 1:30 p.m.

Chance Events in Aging: Findings from Twin Studies: Many events that occur throughout the aging process have been tied to genetic make-up. Twin research provides us with a unique opportunity to investigate events of aging that are both the result of genetics and non-genetic chance events. Non-genetic cellular variations as a result of development have been found to influence the outcomes of the physiological aging process. Many chance events of aging occur as a result of environmental influence. Through longitudinal twin studies, it has been found that both genetic and environmental influences have an impact on normative cognitive change and age of onset of these changes.
November 22 at 1:30 p.m.

Personal and Familial Characteristics of Exceptional Survivors: Past research on longevity and survivorship has established that both familial and life style factors are important predictors of longevity. This symposium will shed additional light on personal and familial components contributing to survivorship. Data from four different studies collected in three countries will be presented: First, metabolic factors related to energy balance are considered as survivorship characteristics. Second, perfectionism is discussed as a key component contributing to survivorship. Third, two presentations will focus on the role of family longevity by assessing sibling longevity data against different comparison groups. The symposium highlights the relative importance of personal vs. familial characteristics predicting longevity and survival.
November 22 at 5:00 p.m.

Meeting of the Media Minds: The meeting also offers a chance for gerontology journalists to meet and talk shop. The Journalists' Exchange on Aging meets every year in the press room at GSA's conference to discuss emerging concerns and developments on the age beat. This is an informal gathering and all journalists are welcome.
Date and Time TBA

The sessions listed above are just a sampling of what to expect at the 57th Annual Scientific Meeting of The Gerontological Society of America, the national organization of professionals in the field of aging.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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