Over a Quarter-Century of Leadership
The origins of the Alliance for Aging Research reach back to the mid-1980s. Members of Congress from both political parties became aware that the aging of the U.S. population would pose an unsustainable demand for healthcare resources, unless strategies for keeping older Americans healthy and vital could be discovered from medical and behavioral research. After consulting top scientists, medical experts, economists and futurists, a bipartisan group of Senators and Representatives concluded that future advances in the science of aging hold the greatest promise for moderating health costs while improving the lives of millions of older Americans. No existing organization had the scientific standing and the political and media know-how to lead an effective charge for research in aging.
California's then senior U.S. Senator, Alan Cranston, had helped legislate the creation of the National Institute on Aging in the 1970s and was active in advancing the science of healthy aging. A senior member of his staff, Daniel Perry, was asked to set up a not-for-profit advocacy organization in the private sector. Dr. Robert N. Butler, a Pulitzer Prize winning author of Why Survive? Being Old in America and founding Director of the NIA provided guidance and inspiration for the mission of the new organization.
The early efforts were strengthened by a scholarly assessment of the need for political advocacy in aging research, written by a young attorney and graduate student at the Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government. The author was Alan Grayson who was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Florida in 2008 and again in 2012. For more than 20 years until his first election to Congress, Grayson served as an officer of the Alliance.
The Alliance for Aging Research was launched as a tax-exempt, not-for-profit organization in September 1986. Notable public figures taking part in the launch at the time included Republican Senator John Heinz, Reagan cabinet secretary Richard Schweiker, Democratic Senators Cranston, John Glenn, Al Gore and Commonwealth Fund President Margaret Mahoney. A governing body was comprised of senior executives of major foundations and corporations as well as prominent scientists and policymakers acting as advisors.
For more than a quarter century, the Alliance has been a leading non-profit force advancing the science of aging and health, educating health care consumers and medical professionals, and advocating for public policies to promote aging research and higher quality of life for older Americans.
Its Board of Directors was initially led by David R. Carpenter, a top executive with Transamerica and the UniHealth Foundation and later by John L. Steffens, former Vice Chair of Merrill Lynch and current head of Spring Mountain Capital; James E. Eden, a former Marriott executive and current developer of senior living facilities; and Allan Fox, founder and general partner of the Washington, DC-based law firm of FoxKiser. A distinguished science advisory board including Nobel laureates (see link) has guided the Alliance and its work since its inception.
Alliance for Aging Research is launched with a series of events on Capitol Hill and elsewhere in Washington, DC.
The Alliance hosts an international conference on Capitol Hill, The Promise of Productive Aging: The Future for the U.S. and Japan.
The Alliance organizes more than 50 disease-specific groups to challenge Congress to increase federal funding for aging-related health research to $1 billion.
The Alliance hosts the largest public gathering to date to consider potential medical and health benefits of sequencing the human genome; featuring pioneering scientists: James Watson, Leroy Hood and Thomas Caskey.
The Alliance testifies to a Senate Committee that federal efforts to understand genetic basis of age-associated diseases could increase healthy aging and moderate health care spending for older Americans.
The Alliance teams with former Cabinet Secretary Joseph Califano to draft the Independence for Older Americans Act of 1990. Major portions of the bill are adopted by Congress setting up a National Task Force to review research to foster healthy aging and creating a network of Claude Pepper Older Americans Independence Centers at major academic insitutions.
With a grant from the Commonwealth Fund, the Alliance leads a national campaign to publicize and disseminate a National Research Agenda on Aging produced by the Institute of Medicine.
Testimony is submitted by the Alliance to the Social Security Advisory Committee detailing how well-funded and coordinated research aimed at reducing the impact of chronic diseases of aging could help contain future costs of Medicare.
Working with the Commonwealth Fund the Alliance devised a plan to raise corporate support for developing careers of physician-scientists in geriatrics. The program provides the basis for what will become the highly-successful Paul Beeson Physician Faculty Scholars in Aging Research.
Alliance helps develop hearings of the House Select Committee on Aging on shortfall of geriatric training in U.S. medical schools and cost effective benefits of aging research.
Alliance and NIA release initial results of the National Health and Retirement Survey regarding health and economic status of older Americans.
The Alliance launches a nationwide campaign to build awareness about causes and new treatments for congestive heart failure, the leading cause of hospitalization among the elderly.
White House Conference on Aging adopts a resolution championed by the Alliance to make federal funding for aging research equal to 1% of federal health care expenditures for older Americans. Alliance and American Federal for Aging Research (AFAR) produce Putting Aging on Hold: Delaying the Diseases of Aging and distribute to delegates at the conference.
The Alliance launches a three-year national high blood pressure education campaign aimed at older women.
Seven Deadly Myths: Uncovering the Facts about High Costs of the Last Year of Life is released by the Alliance to correct misunderstandings about end of life care of older people.
The Alliance begins its Increasing Public Awareness about Age-Related Macular Degeneration program.
Senators Connie Mack (R-FL) and John Glenn (D-OH) are honored for their contributions to science and healthy aging at the Alliance’s annual Bipartisan Congressional Awards Dinner.
Senators Chuck Grassley and John Breaux of the Senate Special Committee on Aging help the Alliance call attention to its latest study of the hidden costs to U.S. health care that stem from loss of independence among older Americans.
Alliance helps launch the Patients’ Coalition for Urgent Research (Patients’ CURe) to highlight the stake of people with life-threatening diseases to speak out for public funding and accountability for human embryonic stem cell research.
Alliance convenes a symposium on Capitol Hill to explore possibilities of broader coverage of prescription drugs under Medicare; report is produced in cooperation with the Senate Special Committee on Aging.
Interactive and innovative web module, Genetics in Aging, is launched on Alliance web site: www.agingresearch.org.
The Task Force for Aging Research Funding report is released. This report, headed by the Alliance and backed by more than 50 organizations, called for a total U.S. budget of $27.3 billion for biomedical and behavioral research for fiscal year 2003. The requested amount would complete the government's commitment of doubling the NIH budget in five years.
In partnership with the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Roll Call editor, Mort Kondracke, the Alliance launches its SAGE Crossroads program to facilitate the live and on-line (www.sagecrossroads.net) exchange between aging experts around issues of aging research and public policy.
Alliance President & CEO, Daniel Perry, begins his service as President of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research (CAMR), a coalition leading the efforts to advance research and technologies in regenerative medicine, including stem cell research and somatic cell nuclear transfer, in order to cure disease and alleviate suffering.
The Alliance supplies the 2005 White House Conference on Aging with white papers on aging related research and on geriatric training/workforce issues. The Alliance succeeds in getting delegates of the White House Conference on Aging to adopt aging research as one of its top 50 priorities for implementation by the White House policy committee.
Friends of the National Institute on Aging (NIA) is established and chaired by Daniel Perry in order to advocate for NIA and increase visibility of their research.
ACT-AD Coalition is launched to accelerate the development of cure and treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. The coalition is dedicated to increasing public and government recognition that Alzheimer’s is a life-threatening disease that requires urgent attention. The coalition is chaired by Alliance President & CEO Daniel Perry.
The Alliance releases The Silver Book: Chronic Disease and Medical Innovation in an Aging Nation, an online almanac, along with the results of a national survey on the public’s knowledge of chronic disease at a press conference.
In partnership with the National Family Caregivers Association, the Alliance developed a new resource to educate family caregivers on how to care for themselves while caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, Alzheimer’s Disease: Helping Yourself Help a Loved One.
The Alliance assumed a board leadership role this year for the Coalition for a Stronger FDA, a new coalition that advocates for increased resources to meet the needs of a changing FDA. As a member of the coalition’s board, the Alliance has identified key programs at FDA that are severely under-funded, and informed policymakers about the benefits of increased appropriations.
The Alliance releases The Silver Book: Vision Loss, adding another layer to the online almanac highlighting chronic disease medical innovation.
The Alliance released a series of four short animated films called A Quick Look at Alzheimer’s, written and directed by David Shenk, author of The Forgetting, and narrated by Emmy and Tony award-winning actor David Hyde Pierce. The films explain the disease and its public health implications and are designed for doctors, nurses, caregivers, public health advocates, and others to increase understanding in order to reduce stigma, improve care, and help strengthen the fight against this challenging disease.
The Alliance honors the inaugural recipient of the Florence S. Mahoney "Making a Difference" Award, established in memory of Florence S. Mahoney to recognize her accomplishments as an advocate for aging research.
The Alliance releases The Silver Book: Osteoporosis.
ACT-AD presented national polling data as part of the September 24, 2009 GQ Rockstars of Science briefing on Capitol Hill. The survey was conducted to highlight widespread support for Congressional action on policies to improve access to new therapies and services for Alzheimer’s disease patients.
The Alliance commissioned a national survey of public attitudes on issues surrounding pain management and older adults. They survey provides a glimpse of how seniors manage pain, particularly with respect to over-the-counter pain relief products and gauges seniors’ awareness of recent advisory committee activities by the FDA that could restrict the availability of extra-strength acetaminophen products. A report of key findings was submitted to the FDA prior to their consideration of further formal action.
In early March, the Alliance hosted a two-day meeting entitled Indicators of Aging. This meeting identified research targets that would provide measurable progress in the discovery of measures of healthspan and biomarkers of aging. The meeting was attended by 17 of the leading scientists and thinkers in the biology of aging field from across the country.