The National Institute on Aging is a research division of the National Institutes of Health, aimed at "understanding the nature of aging, supporting the health and well being of older adults, and extending healthy, active years of life for more people," according to its website
The government agency, located in Bethesda, Maryland, was founded in 1974 by Congress. It leads research efforts on issues facing older people, including Alzheimer's research. It also sponsors research programs around the nation.
The current director is Dr. Richard J. Hodes, a Harvard Medical School graduate who joined the NIA in 1993.
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He wrote on the agency's website: "At NIA, our mission is to discover what may contribute to a healthy old age as well as to understand and address the disease and disability sometimes associated with growing older. In pursuit of these goals, our research program covers a broad range of areas, from the study of basic cellular changes that occur with age to the examination of the biomedical, social, and behavioral aspects of age-related conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease."
The NIA's history has evolved over the past 75 years. It began when the NIH established a "unit on aging" in 1940 under its division of chemotherapy. That unit later became the gerontology branch. By 1950, President Harry Truman oversaw what was the first conference on aging, and by 1956, a Federal Council on Aging had begun.
In the two decades thereafter, interest rose in creating a separate National Institute on Aging. But in 1973, President Richard Nixon vetoed such a measure. Two years later, however, the first Institute on Aging was born. By 1984, the first Alzheimer's Disease Centers were created, and in the ensuing years, the NIA expanded with research initiatives and studies looking to explore science, demographics, race and cultural issues related to aging, the website said.
The NIA puts out many publications designed to inform the public on research and other issues related to health. They include caregiving, disability, doctor-patient communications, end-of-life, exercise, healthy aging and longevity and legal and financial planning among others.
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A National Advisory Council on Aging meets three times a year to advise the NIA's director, the director of the NIH as well as the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services on issues of research and funding. Documents from the meetings are made public on the NIA's website.
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