A follow-up report on two nonagenarians and two centenarians living at the Laguna Woods Village retirement community in Orange County originally interviewed in 2014 will air on Sunday evening’s edition of “60 Minutes” on CBS.
The four interviewees are among the participants in “The 90+ Study” begun in 2003 by the UCI Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders to learn more about “the oldest-old,” in an attempt to determine factors associated with longevity.
With more than 1,600 people enrolled it is one of the world’s largest studies of the nation’s fastest-growing age group.
“We originally learned about The 90+ Study years ago when we were working on an unrelated story at the University of California Irvine,” said Shari Finkelstein, a producer of both the 2014 story and Sunday’s. “We looked into it and it grew into a two-segment story back in 2014.
“Then this past spring, with the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing, we wondered how the study, and especially its participants — all in the most high-risk age group — were faring. We were thrilled to learn that several of the 90+’ers we had reported on back in 2014 were still alive.
“The study had continued to yield fascinating, and sometimes confounding, findings — some of them based on autopsy results from study participants we had met in 2014 who had since passed away. We knew it was time to go back and do a follow-up story.”
The interviewees are:
— Lou Tirado, a gunner on a B-17 bomber during World War II who turned 100 this summer, is on Facebook and uses Zoom to communicate on his laptop computer;
— Helen Weil, a 99-year-old who wakes up every morning at 6:30 a.m. with help from her iPhone virtual assistant, Siri, walks daily and does exercises in her chair;
— Sid Shero, who underwent a PET scan six years ago which revealed the markers for Alzheimer’s disease in his brain. However, the 99-year-old’s memory remains sharp, suggesting he may have some protection against dementia which researchers are eager to understand; and
— Ruthy Stahl, who was speed walking and still driving when she was interviewed for the 2014 story but in the interview for Sunday’s broadcast the 102-year-old didn’t remember meeting the “60 Minutes” team.
Study participants undergo examinations and clinical assessments every six months. Many participants agree to donate their brains to the study, so even the ones who have died are contributing to important new discoveries.
Ted Rosenbaum was 95 when correspondent Lesley Stahl interviewed him in 2014 and was thought to be suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. But when pathologists examined his brain, they did not find the proteins amyloid and tau that define Alzheimer’s. Instead, they found a different protein, TDP-43, a newly-discovered cause of dementia in people over 90.
The report also includes Stahl’s interview with Dr. Claudia Kawas, the associate director of UCI MIND, who told her, “Half of all children born today in the United States and Europe are going to reach their 103rd or 104th birthday.”