Date: July 16th, 2014
Sue Peschin was recently named as president and CEO of the Alliance for Aging Research, taking over for Founder Dan Perry. This was a historic moment in the history of our organization. We sat down with Sue to get her thoughts on her position and her vision for the future of the Alliance.
LLLI: You are the second president and CEO in the almost 30-year history of the Alliance. What are your initial thoughts on succeeding Dan Perry?
Sue: It is an honor for me to succeed Dan Perry. Dan and I spoke about the transition process for about a year before I came to the Alliance, and we’ve designed a gradual changeover that has worked really well for us and the organization. As founder, Dan has the breadth of experience in the field of aging research, along with the institutional knowledge that serves as a valuable guide as we shape our strategy moving forward. I have the benefit of learning from him, while also having the ability to carve my own path for the organization.
LLLI: We know that aging has become a major issue in the minds of Americans. What role do you foresee the Alliance playing in this issue both now and in the coming years?
Sue: There are many groups that focus on entitlement and direct service programs for seniors, which are critically important issues, but the Alliance for Aging Research is the only organization of its kind that promotes research and its application in order to improve the experience of aging. There are currently 10,000 Americans a day turning 65; by 2030, about one in five Americans will be past that age. Eighty percent of seniors have at least one major chronic condition and half have two or more. And it’s not cheap. Chronic diseases of later life are costing the nation more than $1 trillion per year—a figure expected to increase to $6 trillion by the middle of this century. While it’s vital to find better ways to cover the costs of retirement and quality health care, including coordinated and long-term care for seniors, we won’t really bend the cost curve in health care until we significantly invest in aging research.
With sufficient funding and focus, research that slows aging has the potential to extend our healthy years of life while simultaneously postponing the costly and harmful conditions of old age. As advances are being made on an almost monthly basis in the field of aging research, the Alliance is out front beating the drum and spreading the word. We are encouraged this message is getting out, as the research and policy communities are starting to shift their thinking.
LLLI: What is your overall vision for the Alliance?
Sue: My broad vision for the Alliance is for us to do two things during my tenure. First, we will lead the effort to change how the government funds medical research to better reflect demographic trends that affect health, such as the aging of the population. Second, we will develop the best health education programs that tackle misinformation, challenge the status quo, and promote innovation in care for older Americans.
LLLI: You have a long history of advocacy in issues such as gun control and Alzheimer’s. What makes you passionate about aging research?
Sue: I was very lucky to grow up in a family where I knew two of my great-grandmothers, five grandparents, and several great-aunts and great-uncles. Being around older family members was normal for me into my teen years, and I saw aging as something to be celebrated and enjoyed. On the flip side, I saw many of those family members eventually get sick and go to the hospital, rehab or nursing home. There was a huge disconnect to me in the way some of them were treated—as if their brilliant lives had never existed and they were just numbers, in a long line waiting to die. It stuck with me and informs what I do. Aging is an issue that affects all of us. We start aging the day we are born.
LLLI: What do you want to be doing in 30 years?
Sue: In 30 years I hope to be working or volunteering part-time, traveling with my husband, and thoroughly spoiling my grandchildren.