Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Dan Hall & twin brother Dennis in NIH lifelong study of twin brother veterans

By Zander Frost, Chronicle Staff Writer

Former Glens Falls Mayor Dan Hall and his fraternal twin brother Dennis are service veterans participating in the lifelong federal “Vietnam Era Twin Study of Aging.”

Every five years, the National Institutes of Health provides the men an all expenses paid trip to check their mental and physical agility and other aspects of their health.

2-year-olds. Left: Dan. Right: Dennis

Most recently, they flew to La Jolla, San Diego, California.

“The sets of twins are in every state in the United States. There are 7,400,” Dan said. “In San Diego, they bring a set of twins in every day, five days a week.”

All the participants are veterans. Dan notes, “My brother and I both served during Vietnam, we didn’t serve in Vietnam.”

They graduated from Queensbury High School in 1969.

Dan served in the Army, stationed in Okinawa, Japan. A long-time participant in Glens Falls civic efforts, he served as mayor from 2018 through 2021.

Dennis, who lives near Charlotte, North Carolina, had a long military career. He was in the Air Force, initially stationed in Plattsburgh and later, England.

“I did the initial six years, four years active, and then two years reserve.”

Left: Dennis Hall. Right: Dan.

After a 10-year break, he joined the Air National Guard unit “in Schenectady, and I became a full-time technician” there for 15 years, until he transferred to North Carolina, where his wife got a job in the banking industry.

“I retired officially in 2008. So I’ve got a little over 30 years military service, federal service,” Dennis said.

The goal of the NIH Vietnam-era veterans male twins study is “to focus on the genetic and environmental contributions to cognitive processes over time, as well as the relative contributions to cognitive aging from health, social, personality, and other contextual factors.”

Participants have a choice where they get their five-year check-ups. The Halls have gone to San Diego twice, then Boston, and now back to San Diego.

“I do enjoy Boston, I think it’s a great city,” says former Mayor Dan. “But the lure of San Diego and the weather makes you lean towards that.”

NIH puts them up in a hotel for four nights and supplies a per diem stipend.

“They start with the testing with your height, weight, blood pressure,” Dan said. “…My brother goes with one technician and I go with another.”

The one long day of tests is both physical and cognitive, said Dennis, a North Carolina resident since 1999.

“They give you a list of categories, like names and stuff, and then you have to repeat it back to them” throughout the day, he said.

Left: Dennis Right: Dan

Others test aptitude, like solving what an object would look like unfolded. There are also “agility tests; how quick you can stand up, sit down. And then you have a very short running distance…in this hallway. It’s kind of silly,” Dennis said.
“It can be strenuous,” especially when struggling on memory portions, he said.

“You feel a little bit bad, but then after you think about it, you go hmmm, it’s only a series of tests,” Dennis said. “It’s to help the research again.”

“I really don’t keep up on it all that much, other than just knowing that we’ve got a free trip coming up,” Dennis laughed. “And Danny’s always gung ho about it.” Both brothers said it’s a great opportunity for them to spend time together.

Dan said, “It is kind of cool to stay in touch. We had two other brothers who in the last two years have passed away. So we’re the only two of four that are left.”

Dennis says, “I get to spend some time with my brother who I’ve known all my life, but distance has kept us apart for a while. You get to see some places, if you want, that you’ve never seen before.”

Dan said they’ll see other twins at the hotel — including, once, one wearing a “Vietnam Era Twin Study” hat.

“He waved to us,” Dan laughed.

How long will the study continue? “Well, forever. Put it that way,” Dan said.

“They have told us that every five years, we will come back and if one of us passes away, the one surviving twin still goes and gets tested,” he said.

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