This is the latest Q & A with our various Healthspan Campaign partners. Today we feature the American Federation for Aging Research and its executive director Stephanie Lederman (pictured at right). Let’s learn more about the work of AFAR.
Q: Tell us a little more about AFAR.
SL: The American Federation for Aging Research (AFAR) is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to support and advance healthy aging through biomedical research.
AFAR envisions a world where we are living healthier as we get older—less susceptible to disease and disability. To get there, since our founding in 1981, AFAR has supported research to help better understand the aging processes and how they relate to many of the diseases of aging. To build and strengthen the field, AFAR supports investigators at critical points in their research while also encouraging physicians to gain a better understanding how to care for older adults. AFAR brings these expert insights to the public through webinars, briefings, and our online resource InfoAging.org, which features over two dozen downloadable guides, edited by guest experts on topics ranging from theories of aging, age-related conditions, healthy lifestyle tips, and more.
Q: What do you consider your most important priorities?
SL: AFAR supports healthy aging through biomedical research through a wide variety of programs. First and foremost, we give grants to investigators conducting groundbreaking research in the critically underfunded field of aging biology and its connection to age-related disease. AFAR grants make it possible for investigators at uncertain points in their careers to carry on their work.
AFAR also gives grants to physicians and medical students, fostering the community of leaders who will care for older adults. Through its grant portfolio, AFAR has created a “ladder of opportunity” which provides funding mechanisms for subsequent career stages.
In addition, AFAR convenes leaders in aging research and other key stakeholders in order to catalyze discovery and advance the field.
Finally, AFAR works to communicate the many significant findings of our grantees and the field to members of the general public, so that we can all enjoy the fruits of this research as we grow older healthier. For example, this fall, we are co-hosting a geroscience summit, which will focus on how many diseases influence or even drive the processes of aging. AFAR also is involved in the Longevity Dividend Initiative, which explores the socioeconomic benefits of improving healthspan. Our recent publication with the Gerontological Society of America features a range of papers building this case.
Q: What are some of current projects you’d like to highlight?
SL: AFAR is proud to have helped create a new animated video, Live Longer, Live Well, sponsored by the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research with input from British biogerontologist Richard Faragher. The clip was designed by London-based data journalist David McCandless, known for his popular book Information is Beautiful and TEDTalk on data visualization. The clip is free and available to download and share at AFAR.org. We hope that anyone committed to aging research—from investigators to funders to communications professionals to executive directors and board members—can benefit from using the clip’s clear, clever message.
And we hope that Healthspan colleagues in the NYC area will join us on of April 7 for an evening with David McCandless at Pratt Institute Manhattan. He’ll give a special talk on the challenges of conveying complex information, like aging research, through visual storytelling.
If you’re an investigator or communications professional or aging advocate who wants to use info graphics to tell your story, this talk is your opportunity to learn from one of the world’s best designers. To RSVP, just email [email protected].
Another project we like to highlight is our collaboration with the Global Coalition on Aging to engage more corporate leaders in dialogues with health and science experts to help prevent financial fraud. Financial exploitation is a fast-growing form of abuse of older adults even though we rarely hear about it. Experts say it takes place in every community and is bound to get worse as the population ages.
Q: Why is healthspan and the Healthspan Campaign a part of AFAR’s work?
SL: While aging is inevitable, disease and disability don’t have to be. Our mission, quite simply, is to find new ways to help every American live better longer. We truly believe there are remarkable discoveries to be found. AFAR is inspired by our peers in the Healthspan Campaign and the unique assets that each of our organizations brings to help raise awareness of aging-related issues. Together, we can better serve the growing older population. Let’s make this the age of aging better.