Satisfied senior woman in rehab together with physical therapist
(Credit: Robert Kneschke / EyeEm / Getty Images)

Two Kisco Senior Living communities are part of an initiative to better understand the biological and genetic underpinnings of “exceptional longevity.”

Abbotswood at Irving Park and Heritage Greens, both in Greensboro, NC, are participating in the SuperAgers Initiative. The study is recruiting 10,000 “citizen scientists” aged 95 and older to understand how to prevent and treat diseases of aging.

Jody Clayton, business development director for both communities, told McKnight’s Senior Living that the project aligns with the company’s commitment to high-quality, creatively designed programs for residents. 

“Traditionally, medical science views aging as medicating the various conditions that may come with age,” Clayton said. “Conversely, SuperAgers is using genetics to determine what biological determinants are the keys to healthy aging in  individuals who still are active and vibrant 95-plus years. The results of this groundbreaking research may lead to better treatments for all of us — not just seniors.”

The research caught the attention of Abbotswood Executive Director Allison Pait, who said the project “perfectly aligned with the culture of our communities.”

“This research is salient and timely as we are living longer lives though not necessarily healthier lives,” Pait told McKnight’s Senior Living. “The advancements in medical science are incredible. I truly believe that this research will lay the groundwork for more breakthroughs.”

According to the initiative, 90,000 Amerians are aged more than 100 years — and that number is projected to increase to 589,000 by 2060. Research on SuperAgers has identified several genetic drivers responsible for slower aging and already has supported the advancement of new drug development. 

Ultimately, the multi-year SuperAgers Initiative is meant to help develop and fast-track new therapies that target the processes of aging as a resource for clinical trials on a wide variety of age-related diseases and conditions.

Initially, the program will begin with the creation of a SuperAgers Community, where residents and families will share their stories of their own exceptional longevity. Participants and their families each will complete a health history questionnaire and will provide a saliva sample through a DNA kit.

Kisco has identified residents who will be encouraged to participate at each community, but participation is voluntary. A kick-off event today at Abbotswood will include Einstein institute scientists discussing background information and goals of the study.

“Our hope is that the impact of the research will be felt far beyond Abbotswood at Irving Park and Heritage Greens,” Clayton said. “Our residents are the lifeblood of our communities. If there is any avenue that will result in people thriving — not just simply living — then we must explore that path.”

Clayton said that Kisco is looking forward to learning what genetic factors the SuperAgers have in common and what role those factors play in the life cycle. 

“Senior living communities are ideal testing locations due to the population concentration and the likelihood that most communities have space to utilize for testing and workshops,” she said. “Still, the residents in these communities will only be a fraction of the tests that will be needed to complete a comprehensive study.”

Members of the SuperAgers Community may become eligible to join the SuperAgers Family Study, the first of the initiative’s research projects designed to unlock the biological and genetic secrets of superaging. The study will compare traits in SuperAgers and their children to traits in older adults whose parents were not SuperAgers. 

The aim is to identify inherited and natural factors that protect against human aging and related diseases. The data will be used to create a biorepository database for future research related to healthy aging.

The SuperAgers Initiative is being spearheaded by the American Federation for Aging Research and Albert Einstein College of Medicine in collaboration with Boston University School of Medicine.