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Senate Aging Committee Holds Hearing on Promoting Healthy Aging

September is Healthy Aging Month

Click HERE to read Senator Collins’ opening statement

Click HERE to read Senator Casey’s opening statement


Washington, D.C.—U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bob Casey (D-PA), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Aging Committee, convened a hearing today titled, “Promoting Healthy Aging: Living Your Best Life Long Into Your Golden Years.”


The U.S. is undergoing a dramatic population shift, and the U.S. Census Bureau predicts that by 2035 adults age 65 and older will outnumber children. According to a report released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), older adults, on average, are experiencing better overall health. Living longer, however, has also led to more individuals encountering physical and behavioral health challenges.


September is Healthy Aging Month, and this hearing focused on strategies that may help older adults achieve healthy aging by adopting a holistic lifestyle that includes proper nutrition, exercise, preventive care, and staying socially engaged. Greater federal investments in biomedical research also hold great promise in improving the quality and longevity of Americans’ lives.  Witnesses highlighted research into the genetic factors that play a role in healthy aging; evidence-based interventions that improve health outcomes; community-based programming that encourage health and wellness; and the important role that access to services and supports play in helping individuals stay healthy, live independently, and remain active in their communities.


“By the year 2030, one out of five Americans will be over the age of 65.  These Americans represent the fastest growing demographic segment of our population.  They are independent, they are diverse, and they are often still working,” said Senator Collins.  “From the individual to the community level, from the doctor’s office to the home, there are steps that we can take right now to improve prospects for healthy aging.  I appreciated the insight provided by our great panel of experts on how to add health and wellbeing to life’s golden years.”


“As we heard from our witnesses, there are policies that we can put it place that would further promote healthy aging,” said Senator Casey. “We heard about the importance of supporting evidence-based research through the Older Americans Act to support the development of lifestyle interventions, the importance of supporting the network of aging and disability resource coordinators that help connect individuals with services and supports in the community, and the importance of ensuring that seniors and people with disabilities have the basic health coverage they need, including dental, hearing and vision coverage, to ensure that they can remain in their homes and active in their communities. I look forward to working with my colleagues to address these recommendations from our witnesses.”


Witnesses for this hearing included:


Rudolph Tanzi, Ph.D., Director, Genetics And Aging Research Unit At Massachusetts General Hospital, And Professor Of Neurology, Harvard University (Boston, MA).  Dr. Tanzi studies the role of genetics in healthy aging, and found that for age-related diseases, 95 percent of genetics is addressed by lifestyle. This discovery reverses a long-held notion that genes are unchangeably linked to disease. His research illustrates how lifestyle factors such as sleep, exercise, diet, stress, and social and cognitive activity change the regulation of gene activity and modify disease risk. He has published books on the topic including “Super Genes: Unlock the Astonishing Power of Your DNA for Optimum Health.” He provided a scientific lens through which lifestyle factors support healthy aging.


Susan Hughes, DSW, Co-Director, Center For Research On Health And Aging, University of Illinois-Chicago (Chicago, IL).  Dr. Hughes has conducted numerous studies in the field of aging and has more than 20 years of experience with support from NIH, the VA, and numerous private foundations. She is the principal investigator of the UIC Midwest Roybal Center for Translation, which has completed four longitudinal intervention studies about exercise adherence in older adults. She also designed Fit and Strong!, an exercise program that has been shown to help older adults maintain independent functioning and reduce and manage arthritis symptoms. She discussed the process of translating evidence-based interventions into practice.


Diane Dickerson, CEO, Bangor YMCA (Bangor, ME).  Ms. Dickerson develops and oversees programs at the YMCA that support healthy aging. Key programs include Second Wind, a health and wellness class designed for seniors ages 60 plus, and Senior College, which provides intellectually stimulating non-credit courses for adults over the age of 50. She has also designed programs specific for older adults living with certain conditions including Parkinson’s, cardiovascular diseases, and arthritis to allow such individuals to remain engaged physically, socially, and cognitively. Ms. Dickerson described the impact of these programs in supporting healthy aging, as well as a new Alzheimer’s program that she is launching in partnership Jackson Laboratory and the Maine Alzheimer’s Association.


Brian L. Long, Lead Coordinator, Pennsylvania Link To Aging And Disability Resources Service Area 13 & Volunteer Representative, Southcentral Regional Council On Aging (West Hempfield Township, PA).  Mr. Long is the Lead Coordinator for the Pennsylvania Link to Aging and Disability Resources, Berks- Lancaster-Lebanon Service Area, a role he’s held since 2012. He is responsible for developing provider resources; identifying training needs; program outreach and connecting individuals with services and resources. He is also a Volunteer Representative on the Southcentral Regional Council on Aging, where he helps to advise the Pennsylvania Department of Aging on issues impacting older adults.


Click HERE to read their testimonies.