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The following program is produced by the University of Michigan broadcasting service under a grant of aid from the National Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. The challenge of aging. Today's program. Research in aging. A program from the series human behavior social and medical research. Produced by the University of Michigan Broadcasting Service. With special assistance from the National Health Council and the National Health Forum. These programs have been developed from interviews with men and women who have the too often unglamorous job of basic research. Research in medicine the physical sciences social sciences and the behavioral sciences. Occasionally you will hear what may seem like strange or unfamiliar sounds. These are the sounds of the participants office his laboratory or his clinic where the interviews were first conducted. You will hear today Dr. Nathan W. Shah who is chief of the Gerontology branch of the Baltimore City
hospital. And my name is Glenn Philips. My first question to Dr. shock was what do you consider to be the greatest recent advance in the field of gerontology. He answered Well I think the. Most significant advance is. The recognition of gerontology as an area for research and the increasing degree of support that has been given to problems in this in this whole field of aging. Ten years ago or so you could find very few people who were making studies of various problems in this field. And when the Gerontology branches first. Set up back in
1941. We found it very difficult at that time to find anyone else really to talk to with regard to research in this area. But now it's there. There's been a marked change there are a number of laboratories. Some of them set up within the last year for example a the Gerontology Council of the Duke University the Albert Einstein Center are both new developments in terms of a support of research and aging process a broad front. Isn't it true that in order to get true answers to what aging really is what happens in this phenomenon of aging but you're going to have to started very early life to find out what happens through the whole lifespan before you can have the
true answer to this is going to take Indeed certainly longer than 15 years it's going to take a entire lifespan. Well I'm thinking we can get some some. Preliminary answers by looking at and studying of different people at different ages as you point out these answers must be regarded as as preliminary. There's another. There's another possibility that we might not have to right for they in the entire lifespan of a given individual that is to consider studies it might last 80 or 90 years. Perhaps we could find out a good idea if we were able to. Follow some individuals let us say with repeated measurements between the
ages of say 20 to 35 and other individuals from 30 to 45 and and so on with with. Overlapping age groups we could put these in the total the total functions together and and get an answer more quickly than that and that is 70 to 80 years of the human lifespan. We have initiated some studies of this kind of a gerontology branch at Baltimore City hospitals and we hope that we can have some some preliminary answers. But there's another major problem that confronts they are a searcher and gerontology and that's the problem of the selective factor is that. AND OR and
his choice of subjects amounts to what we know about aging at the present time is based on observations made on individuals and on people's homes and hospitals places where you have brought together a fairly large number of older people. All of these people have for the most part been selected on the lower ends of the social economic scale. What we really need is observations on either the what Beth the more competent members of our society can do at varying ages but also what about the average individual can do. Well we can never get information of this kind is to sample from the total
population. In other words every every individual is a potential subject for study. This is rather recognized and medical schools and universities are. All kinds of studies are carried out using the students graduate students medical students young physicians that are attached to hospital staff and I actually had a good share of what is in the textbooks of physiology really ought to be labeled the physiology of the medical student. But when individuals leave the school situation than get out in the community they're not available. Or subject material. So we just really don't know anything about the physiology or the psychology of the adult that is living in the community that is
working and is taking care of himself and his family. And certainly we will be able to. Entice members of this population to give of their time and effort to serve as subjects for scientific study that we're really going to know what aged as to performance. Anyway in the normal human individual we have we have a group here just just been just just getting started really of highly successful people living in the community who come into the city hospitals here spend 200 days during which they're given our kinds of physiological and psychological tests as individuals. They really don't get anything out of this detailed examination. There are making a
contribution to scientists. These people are committed to return to the laboratory every 18 months for the remainder of their lives. The age group or the age of the group ranges from thirty two to ninety nine. They are selected from the upper levels up or educational levels most of them are scientists professional people those who have. Have a real interest in finding out something about what happens with a judge and individuals. And I suppose all of the problems are answered or at least a good number of the problems are answered What is foreseen by the gerontologist. Do they hope to extend the life span up to into the hundreds of in a hundred years here. Hundred and twenty hundred and thirty hundred forty What have you.
What is their hope an aim. Well they the grower of research and German heritage is certainly not simply to increase lifespan. As such our hope is that by knowing more about ageing as a biological phenomenon and knowing what factors influence age changes once once we identify them that we were blessed to minimise the disability and the frustrations that occur with a greater frequency in the older people. What we rock people too we write people who retain their capability is as free from disease as we can manage to write ever
of Rife's bad they're there capable out. Obviously if you minimize and reduce disease incidence a byproduct of this is going to be an increasing lifespan. As you know nearly the figures that are often quoted about how the Rife's battle has increased from an average of about 30 years in nineteen hundred to an average of 70 years at the present time. Is is really a reflection of a reduction in infant mortality that actually 65 the individual who reached the age of 65 reaches the age of 65. Today has only about two more years Marar of
life expectancy than the 65 year old did in 1900. Obviously as we learn more and more about the diseases which are the primary cause of death in order people we're going to increase this margin more and more. But the striking changes in what we call life expectancy has really been a reflection of the improvement in both medical care and general level standards of living that have greatly reduced infant mortality. Has the research gerontology advanced far enough has it been recognized long enough that it's been possible to draw any kind of conclusion or theory for example is it thought maybe that old age is the deterioration of cells or is it the other hand the deterioration of.
The emotional outlook on life. Or is it a combination of both Just what is so governed in our laboratory we have. When arrested and when. And two kinds of questions were are as right as the basic biology of aging. The second is how do you humans change with age in the performance capacities of various organ systems or in terms of their total abilities. Now the studies on the cellular changes with age of course have to be carried out on out of those. Other than that and for this we've used the white rat a right rat at the age of two years is about
equivalent to the 70 year old man we've studied a large number of the basic physiological processes that go on inside of ours. Comparing the 12 month and the 2 year old rat now there are some changes that occur in specific enzymes. Right of the factors that we know changes with age is that in many tissues of the body such as in the kidney and the nervous system that as time progresses there is a dropping out of individuals from these tissues. And so part of the impaired function in the older individual can be ascribed to this
death and the loss of individual cells particularly and in key tissues the changes that we have been able to detect in the internal workings of Sal's. However it is only of their order of 10 to 15 percent reduction. This is not enough to explain a 40 to 50 percent reductions in some physiological measurements. As for example a kidney function. So that part of the total change in the individual must be related to a loss of cells in these tissue. But here again this won't explain everything particularly when you get into areas of
behavior because of the performance capacity is all wrapped to show reductions even greater than we can find and individual organ systems so that undoubtedly the there is some kind of a of a factor that I would like to think of as the ability to coordinate and adjust to the stresses and strains of the environment. Then do you make all of the organ systems in the body work together. Now in times of behavior many of the difficulties that are encountered by older people extend to the to the to the general social environment. Some of the problems of the world are people we now call ours out of
the way that society as a whole reacts to aging the demands and the restrictions that our society places on individuals of given ages must also contribute to their behavioral characteristics. 1. One prize example of course is the demands of our society that when the individual reaches his sixty fifth birthday he is no longer capable of holding down a job that is retired. This is an imposition by society as far as we can town. There is no evidence for a sudden breakdown with age 65 of any physiological or psychological attribute that would justify this cut off point. That is now being imposed
by our society. Does this cause a physiological and psychological breakdown. Well when you when you say when you ask the question is it good or bad. This is a value judgment. And we've got to say good or bad for what I want. What might be good for society might be bad for the individual. Certainly it is often the Soprano's that forced retirement can produce. Physiological breakdown and even death within short periods of time. However the studies begged by doctors drive that car down
that don't bear this this out. They carried out interviews and followed a group of retired or retired individuals to try and find out whether there was an increasing incidence of disease and a higher mortality rate mediately following retirement than there would be in a group that were not retired. Their findings gave no evidence that in general retirement produced physical disability and disease. Many of the individuals who. Retire do so for reasons of health.
And even individuals. Who are forced to retire at age 65. Many of them have a degree of physical disability. Now when this is taken into account. The that results seems to be that if an individual is pretty healthy before retirement he is apt to remain so after retirement. I think the major question however is how really individual is prepared to accept retirement and what he does and what plans he has that are realistic for utilization of his time and efforts after retirement. How can one professional groups this is not apt to be a problem. But in their overall population this certainly is shown by
like your having Hearst in his studies of Kansas City that many people look forward to retirement and that for the most part these individuals are able to make a pretty good adjustment. But what we really need is a program within the framework of adult education that will give individuals knowledge and grows that they can continue to pursue after retirement. You have referred to one group in which you are selected. While the higher intellectual I shall on the more more successful professional people and I mention to you also about another study out of Bethesda which they have selected a group of ex scientists who are retired. Certainly this classification of people
would have. Been through college and they have spent their lifetime learning also because the very profession demands it of them and they have intellectually prepared themselves for old age to continue perhaps to read. To carry on with private research. In other words to keep their minds active. However there is still this other group of people the people who in the factories they work for 40 50 years whatever comes day 65 and they must retire. They probably have not prepared themselves intellectually for this retirement age. Shouldn't there be more attention being paid to this group of people and what is happening to them over the years. Yes I think so but isn't this really a problem of adult education.
This seems to me to be the major area where we have to do. Do better for the future than we have in the past. Originally the concept of adult education seems to me was to offer an opportunity for continued education skills that would. Permit the younger workers to improve their economic lot and to have job advancement. In the past five or ten years there has certainly been a recognition that the role of adult education is much broader than this. That we need and in many in many school systems there are a wide variety
of language courses liturgy or music appreciation this this type of thing that have been introduced. How much of the is the problem as I said is that our leather is recognition for this need. Somehow we've not yet been able to show the consumer as it were that this is a desirable girl. In other words the general problem of motivation because learning it is to be effective is apt to be work and how we manage to show the great mass of the population they desirability and they as in the advantages of this type of continued education
seems to me to be a problem for the future that will be. Even more acute as we increase the leisure time with the advances in technology reduction and work week this is not just a problem of an aging population but it's a problem for a total population. What has to be done with all of the additional leisure time that we are certainly bound to get within the next decade. Is it possible to use animals as control groups for research in gerontology. And if so to what extent. It depends upon the way the question that you're trying to to answer for certain questions. As for example questions about
the inheritance of lifespan leak these questions can actually be answered only with animal like use of animals other than my own because you need a simpler system a data model that you can control those environment control his heredity and grow through. Enough generations during a short period of time for the experiment to get any answers. For example the fruit fly is an exceptionally good NMR for the Study of heredity. We know that various species of flies have quite different lifespans and we can even use animals. The we use the fruit fly to test the effect of alterations and
diet effects of radiation. Many of these things can be answered at least in a preliminary fashion from these animal experiments. The same right if you want to know what's going on inside sounds you have to use it an amount that you can take apart. But ultimately you're going to have to seek a. That is if you're asking questions about the man. Obviously the only way that you can get a final answer for those is by the study of man so that over the entire field and the broad spectrum of questions that we need to know about aging many of them can be answered by animals that are. Laboratory we have colonies of fruit flies we have colonies of rats or even even have one of a colony of cockroaches because they represent a very
nice animal that you can make grass and transplant tissues from the no animal into the sea rather to see what the influences are on aging and individual cells. Our thanks to Dr. Nathan W. Schock who is chief of the Gerontology branch at the Baltimore City hospitals in Baltimore Maryland. This program is from the series human behavior social and medical research consultant for the series was Dr. Wilma Donahue of the University of Michigan's division of gerontology of the Institute of Human adjustment. We extend our special thanks to the National Health Council and the National Health Forum for their assistant. Engineer is for the series were Neil MacLean and Robert Byrd Glenn Phillips speaking thanking you for being with us at this time. This program has been produced by the University of Michigan broadcasting service under a grant in
aid from the National Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is the end i.e. Radio Network.
The challenge of aging
Research on aging
Producing Organization
University of Michigan
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program features an interview with Nathan Shock, Ph.D., Baltimore City Hospital.
Series Description
Part of a WUOM series on human behavior, this series seeks to explore the challenges facing the aged.
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Social Issues
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Host: Hentoff, Nat
Interviewee: Shock, Nathan W. (Nathan Wetherill), 1906-1989
Producer: Phillips, Glen
Producing Organization: University of Michigan
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 61-28-9 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:42
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Chicago: “The challenge of aging; Research on aging,” 1961-05-29, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 26, 2024,
MLA: “The challenge of aging; Research on aging.” 1961-05-29. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 26, 2024. <>.
APA: The challenge of aging; Research on aging. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from