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October 27, 2008

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to Lead Nationwide Aging Study

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have been selected to lead a new national survey of older Americans to understand patterns of disability and aging. The National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health, is expected to award approximately $24 million over the next five years to develop and implement the new survey. The study will include investigators from the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey, Brown University, Columbia University, the Medical College of Wisconsin, the Urban Institute, the University of Iowa, Syracuse University and the survey research firm, Westat. 

“Our aim is to provide scientific evidence that can help in reducing disability and improving the daily lives of older people,” said Judy Kasper, PhD, principal investigator of the study and professor in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Health Policy and Management. “We will assemble a rich database of information that will allow researchers to study how people’s ability to function independently changes over time, as well as examine the factors that influence those changes, such as social environment and medical care.”

The study also is designed to provide trend data on disability comparable to the 1982–2004 National Long-Term Care Survey that showed a major decline in disability among people 65 and older, beginning around 1984.

The first phase of the study will include 12,000 Medicare enrollees, ages 65 and older. The participants will be surveyed annually with new participants being added to the study every five years. New survey tools will be developed to measure and examine trends in late-life independence and wellbeing, how these trends differ by race and socioeconomic status, and the family and societal consequences of disability. 

“New national surveys are rare. Johns Hopkins is privileged to have this opportunity to serve our nation by leading a team that can discover how best to reduce the human and financial costs of age-related disability,” said Scott Zeger, PhD, Vice Provost for Research for Johns Hopkins University.

“The trend in declining disability among older Americans is an important indicator that shows that we can improve health and independence as we age,” said Richard Suzman, PhD, director of the Division of Behavioral and Social Research at the NIA. “We hope that this study will play a critical role in maintaining or accelerating this trend as we address the challenges of our aging population.” Georgeanne E. Patmios serves as NIA’s program official on the project.

Contact for Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Tim Parsons at 410-955-7619 or tmparson@jhsph.edu.