Reaching beyond Researchers

A number of Web sites aim to inform the general public, but prove useful for researchers. They can help with teaching or setting scientific work in a broader context. The American Federation for Aging Research's Info-Aging, for example, offers explanations of a number of topics under several headings. Topics in the ''Biology of Aging'' section include oxidative damage, telomeres, stem cells, and biomarkers of aging. Each one summarizes crucial issues, addresses basic questions, provides links to related research, and points readers toward other resources; in addition, they are reviewed by experts in each field. The ''Disease Center'' similarly contains key information and questions on some age-related illnesses, such as Alzheimer's disease, macular degeneration, and osteoporosis, and the ''Healthy Aging Center'' discusses issues such as nutrition, stress, hearing, and immunization.

AgeLine, hosted by AARP, formerly known as the Association for the Advancement of Retired People, catalogs publications related to social gerontology as well as age-related topics in psychology, sociology, social work, economics, public policy, and the health sciences. The site features abstracts of journal articles, books and chapters, research reports, dissertations, and educational videos, and provides links to purchase or view the full text.

Other resources explain particular age-related diseases. The Centers for Disease Control Cardiovascular Health site contains information for lay people such as fact sheets on topics that include cholesterol, heart attacks, and high blood pressure. Of particular interest to researchers are the interactive maps that supply heart attack and stroke mortality rates for the state, gender, and racial/ethnic group of choice. The site includes a list of Morbidity and Mortality Reports that relate to cardiovascular disease as well as other statistical and public-health information. NIH's Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases-National Resource Center offers background articles on topics of interest to researchers as well as lay people; these include ''Vitamin A and Bone Health,'' ''Phytoestrogens and Bone Health,'' and ''Bone Mass Measurement: What the Numbers Mean.''

The Merck Manual of Geriatrics provides detailed information and guidelines on the care of older people for health professionals. This online book is searchable and covers conditions from falls to dementia to urinary tract disorders. The Merck Manual of Health and Aging is a work in progress, offering demographic information and explanations about how the body ages in language that is intended for the general public.

The Web provides a wealth of tools to help researchers tackle the wide-ranging topics related to aging, tame the sea of data, and make contact with investigators in a variety of subspecialties. These resources can seem invaluable when burning the midnight oil, but they also hold up well in the light of day.

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