Here's an interesting story in today's Washington Post, about a long-term study of hundreds of people, and how they age. 

Excerpts from: Body of Evidence, by Lori Aratani, Washington Post Staff Writer, The Washington Post, Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Every year hundreds of people travel to Baltimore for an unusual purpose. They are not here to tour the city's aquarium or sample its fabled blue crabs. They are not in search of fame or money. Other than free lodging, they receive nothing in exchange for their visit, which entails a certain amount of discomfort.

No, these folks, some of whom have made this journey for decades, believe the trip is worth their time and expense because how they live -- calculated according to everything from the strength of their grip to how many apples they consume in a month -- may offer clues to how the rest of us might live better, longer, healthier lives.

These individuals -- homemakers, retirees, doctors and myriad others -- are participants in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA), the country's longest-running study of aging.

Since 1958, a total of more than 1,400 volunteers have agreed to regularly undergo in-depth physicals and memory and other screenings conducted by the study's physicians. The resulting data span more than half a century and are a gold mine for researchers interested in the aging process.

This is no vacation. During their stay, participants will have a physical that goes well beyond sticking their tongues out and saying "ahhhhh." They rarely will sit for more than 30 minutes before they are whisked away for another exam or stuck with another needle. Sprott, now in his 12th year in the study, confirms that the pace can be brutal.

Researchers take routine measures (temperature, blood pressure and weight), but participants also undergo more sophisticated tests. Echocardiograms help researchers examine hearts, and spirometry tests measure lung function. In addition to collecting blood and urine, researchers might also take samples of the participants' breath.

Even simple tests can provide valuable insight. Researchers will evaluate a participant's grip strength, which previous BLSA research has shown can predict whether someone might be at higher risk of complications after surgery or more likely to die prematurely.

Please go to this url for the complete story----


My generation began marching in the 1950s against atomic testing because it added Strontium 90 to the milk supply. I remember battling with my dad, begging him to let me go to a training meeting for a protest march to Trenton. I was probably 14. 

In the late 1960s and 1970s, many of us added stripes to our battle gear at the 1963 March on Washington, the Mobe, the Vietnam Vets events, People's Park, the first Earth Day, and a myriad lesser walk-ins, sit-ins or write-ins. 

It was always a source of pride to me that my generation insisted on doing the right thing. Even if we were wrong! 

At 19, I desperately wanted to spend my life doing  something that mattered. By age 30, that something had changed from saving civilization to saving myself and my baby.  And, so it goes.

Now, quite a few years later, you and I are at a point in our lives where we CAN pick and choose how we spend our precious time. And, we're certainly finding interesting ways to do it.

I'm getting notes back from invitees casually mentioning volunteer activities. Linda just got back from a 9-day service trip to Honduras. I know she's been doing stuff like that for decades. Liz says she tutors and counsels immigrants at a non-profit social service organization. Karen promotes the Heifer Project.

What have you found in your life that really counts? How have you found the time to do it? What has it meant to you?