Statement Of Sandra Black
Environmental Protection Agency
Aging Initiative Public Listening Session
May 7, 2003
University of Maryland School of Medicine
I am a researcher, and I do research on the health of the elderly. And in particular what I and most of my colleagues consider good research is that which is population based. So we go out to our communities and talk to the people who are older that live there. So it is aging in place, it is aging with mobility, it is sick aging, it is healthy aging. It is all those things, but we talk to those people and learn from them. In doing some of the research I have been doing, I have noticed two things. One is the issue of awareness on the part of research. I think it is interesting that the EPA really got going about the same time that research on aging really took off. One of the things I find is that very few people who are doing research on the elderly consider the environment hazards and conditions. You may hear someone talk about crowdedness and density of population, but you don't hear about rat infestation or air and water quality. We know that lead exposure also affects the elderly. It leads in part to osteoporosis. We know that there are environmental hazards that are to be considered in the development of Alzheimer's Disease. What we do not know is how they affect the bulk of our aging society. What is so sad but good news is that groups like the EPA have a lot they can do to make researchers pay attention to this. Throughout the EPA website you can get access to regional Census track area markers of air pollution. Hopefully this is the kind of information that we can start bringing into already funded research on the health of these people that is already developed. It does not cost that much more money to bring this into the research arena.
The other point is about the awareness of people in the community. I talked to many in an informal way in the Baltimore area, and when you ask them, they are not particularly interested in these issues. They are more concerned about crime and poverty. But when you get them talking, they say that they don't like living near these factories that are putting out all this ozone that they see warnings about every summer. They are aware of what is going on but they have other issues that they are even more concerned about. We need to increase awareness of researchers and of the community of older persons and the large population as well.