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University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

Mon-Yough Seniors To Give Input On Aging

University of Pittsburgh Healthy Aging Study To Provide Data That Could Influence The Health of Seniors Nationwide

PITTSBURGH, February 22, 2006 — Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh will attempt to unravel some of the secrets of healthy aging by studying members of several communities in the Mon-Yough area of southwestern Pennsylvania through a study funded by the National Institute on Aging, one of the National Institutes of Health.

Most older adults experience some gradual slowing of their thinking processes along with some memory loss as a normal part of aging. This, however, may cause many of them to worry that they are developing brain diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, or that they have had a stroke. In reality, most people do not develop such conditions.

The study hopes to improve understanding of healthy aging, particularly of the mind, by identifying factors which cause some elderly to remain healthy while others develop health problems. Researchers need to study normal older people living in the community, not just those who come to the hospital or people who express concern about memory. To get a representative population, researchers will recruit participants by randomly selecting the names of senior citizens from the voter registration list, rather than accepting volunteers.

Over the next two years, senior citizens whose names have been chosen will receive introductory letters from the research team, followed by telephone calls from study nurses. Seniors who agree to participate will become members of the Mon-Yough Healthy Aging Team (MYHAT) and will be offered a small monetary token of appreciation for their time. Members will be interviewed in their homes, or if they prefer, in the study’s office in White Oak, and some will be re-interviewed once a year for the duration of the five-year study.

Participation in the study is entirely voluntary and free of charge. No services or products are being marketed or sold by the study. Introductory letters to the selected seniors will include a toll-free number which can be called for further information. During home and office visits, study nurses will carry proper identification. All information provided to the nurses by participants will be completely confidential.

At a time of greatly restricted research funding, the University of Pittsburgh was successful in securing federal funding for this study due to Allegheny County’s high proportion of senior citizens. Southwestern Pennsylvania also is an excellent national model for senior health because area seniors have consistently shown high levels of motivation and participation in health research studies. Researchers feel that if successful, the study will be a true “team” endeavor incorporating the efforts of the Pitt researchers with those of the community, allowing seniors in southwestern Pennsylvania to take the lead in helping seniors everywhere stay healthy.

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