Sci. Aging Knowl. Environ., 14 November 2001
Vol. 2001, Issue 7, p. nw28
[DOI: 10.1126/sageke.2001.7.nw28]


Vive la France: Minister announces budget and priorities for new aging institute

Melissa Mertl;2001/7/nw28

Key Words: Institut de la Long�vit� • France • longevity

Abstract: The outlines of a new French institute for aging research are taking shape. After more than 8 months of discussion, the French minister of research announced in late October that a new Longevity Institute "without walls" will provide 21 million French francs (about US$3M) next year to fund and organize research on genetics, sensory loss, animal models of aging, and assisted-living technologies.

Citing an oncoming epidemic of aging, research minister Roger-G�rard Schwartzenberg explains the need to better coordinate aging research in the country. "The life expectancy [of the French] is among the highest in the world," he says. By 2011, France will have more people over the age of 60 than under the age of 20. Half the French girls born today are expected to become centenarians, he adds, and an increase in longevity could place the publicly funded health care and pension systems in jeopardy. �tienne-�mile Baulieu, a hormone and reproduction specialist who is vice president of the French Academy of Sciences, led the proposal for the new federal aging initiative and has been named its future coordinator. The leaders of the projects listed as priorities for funding have just learned of the minister's intentions themselves and "haven't started to bargain yet" for shares of the financial pie, Baulieu says.

Epidemiologist Philippe Amouyel, who directed the collection of serum and plasma samples for the so-called three city study expected to lie at the heart of the new national aging initiative, says he was "thrilled" to hear Baulieu's announcement. Almost 10,000 people over the age of 65 living in the vicinity of three major cities in France are participating in the longitudinal study, which tracks about 500 variables for each individual. Next year, researchers will start using the data to seek genes and other biological markers associated with the ailments of old age, such as stroke, dementia, and hypertension.

The new national institute has targeted other areas as well. It is prioritizing research on disorders of vision, hearing, and balance and plans to create a national breeding center and tracking repository for animals used in aging research. In addition, the institute intends to support research on technology that can help the elderly live more comfortable and healthy lives. The fabled goal of retirement at age 60 with a full pension and a French country house might need a petit revision; Schwartzenberg describes the creation of "smart homes" that might have gadgets not only to assist with independent living but also to monitor an elderly person's cardiorespiratory function, cognition, and ability to move around.

As a new generation of French citizens vie to beat the longevity record set by their compatriot Jeanne Calment (who died in 1997 at the age of 122), research leaders in the country will be toiling to understand--and put a shine on--those golden years.

--Melissa Mertl

Further Reading

French Ministry of Research

Citation: M. Mertl, Vive la France: Minister announces budget and priorities for new aging institute. Science's SAGE KE (14 November 2001),;2001/7/nw28

Science of Aging Knowledge Environment. ISSN 1539-6150