58 years later, historic national study returns to Bainbridge to follow up with original participants
BAINBRIDGE -- In 1960, the students of Bainbridge High School became part of a landmark study called Project Talent.
The Putnam County teenagers joined more than 400,000 peers from across the country in the study, including 13,306 students from 29 schools in Indiana.
Project Talent presented a snapshot of a generation coming of age on the cusp of a new era. It is considered the most comprehensive study of American high school students ever conducted and included students from all walks of life and every racial and ethnic group.
Launching a 58-year follow-up of its participants, Project Talent will focus on unraveling the mysteries of Alzheimer's disease. In the coming week, more than half a century since the original study was conducted, former Bainbridge Pointer participants will be sent a questionnaire and asked to take part in a follow-up study designed to learn how their lives have unfolded over the past five decades.
Over two full days in spring 1960, Project Talent assessed the aptitudes and abilities, hopes and expectations of high school students from Bainbridge and 1,352 other schools across the country. The goal was to identify the unique strengths and interests of America's young people and to ensure they were being guided into careers that would make the best use of their talents.
Follow-up studies collected information on occupations, family formation, education and health. The study was originally developed by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) and funded by the United States Office of Education. Project Talent is the only large-scale, nationally representative study that tracks participants from adolescence to retirement age. It helps researchers understand how experiences, environments, genetics and behaviors combine to make us who we are and influence how we age.
The new follow-up study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, will have a special focus on memory and cognitive health in an effort to develop evidence-based policies to combat the looming Alzheimer's crisis. The National Institute on Aging reports that by 2050, the number of Americans living with Alzheimer's disease will more than triple, reaching 16 million. The cost of caring for sufferers will exceed $1 trillion annually.
"The Project Talent generation has contributed to important research in the past five decades," Project Talent Director Susan Lapham said. "Now, they have the opportunity to help us address some of the most pressing public health concerns currently facing our country."
In 1960, Project Talent was remarkable for the diversity of its participants, who represented every facet of American life. Researchers have designed the new Project Talent study to be just as diverse.
Members of Bainbridge High School classes of 1960-63 who are asked to participate in the 2018 study are strongly encouraged complete the survey and share their experiences with researchers.