The study is being conducted by UCI neurologist Claudia Kawas and epidemiologist Maria Corrada. It is called the 90+ Study. It began in 2003 when Kawas and Corrada went to UCI after leaving Johns Hopkins University.
However, the real beginning of this research was in 1981 when a University of Southern California research team mailed 14,000 questionnaires out to residents of the Leisure World retirement community in Orange County, California (now renamed Laguna Woods). Kawas and Corrada are using the information gleaned on that questionnaire and have set about contacting as many of the people who originally completed it, as possible. Many of them, of course, died over the years.
However, when Kawas and Corrada found someone who was still alive and at least 90 years old, they invited them to join their 90+ Study. Most were eager to do so. Participants agree to have their blood tested twice a year, demonstrate their mental acuity by doing things like counting backwards from 100 by 3's, and donate their brains to the researchers when they die.
About one-third of the people in the study have dementia, but the other two-thirds do not. Kawas and Corrada hope to learn why. The National Institute on Aging recently awarded them a $9.5 million grant to continue their research. The money will be used to pay for MRIs and positron emission tomography scans on the donated brains so they can compare those people who have dementia to those that do not.
This is the largest study of the 90+ population in the world, and it will be fascinating to find out what these researchers discover.
Although I am not old enough to be part of this study, I am delighted that it is taking place in the community where I live. I look forward to watching for future reports on what is being learned and I promise to pass updates on to my readers as new data is revealed to the public.
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Source of information on the UCI study:
"UCI's 90-plus Study Tackles Age-Old Question" by Lori Basheda. Laguna Woods Globe, October 17, 2013 (a subsidiary of the Orange County Register)
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Public domain photo of an elderly couple is courtesy of www.morguefile.com