old age

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geriatrics

geriatrics (jĕrēăˈtrĭks), the branch of medicine concerned with conditions and diseases of the aged. Many disabilities in old age are caused by or related to the deterioration of the circulatory system (see arteriosclerosis), e.g., mental deterioration and disturbances of motor and sensory function are often associated with an insufficient blood supply. Older persons are more prone to gastrointestinal disturbances, partly because of a reduced blood supply to the gastrointestinal tract and partly for other reasons, such as poor dentition. Changes in bone tissue, primarily osteoporosis in postmenopausal women, create susceptibility to fractures. There may also be diminished pulmonary function due to degenerative changes in the lungs. Elderly males may suffer from prostatic enlargement (see prostate gland), often accompanied by urinary obstruction. Obesity, causing increased strain on the heart and blood vessels, is also a serious problem of the aged.

The exact cause of aging is unknown, but genetic factors are known to influence longevity. Moreover, it is believed that highly reactive substances called free radicals can cause cumulative damage to body cells and tissues, and that aging cells are more susceptible to malignant changes. These factors have made geriatrics an important specialty, particularly since the proportion of elderly persons in the population is increasing steadily. Geriatrics is one of the fields included in the general study of old age, or gerontology, which covers psychological, economic, and social factors as well. Both public and private institutions are spending large sums of money for research in geriatrics and gerontology.

Bibliography

See R. Andres et al., ed., Principles of Geriatric Medicine (1985); W. Cunningham and J. Brookbank, Gerontology (1987); L. Hayflick, How and Why We Age (1994); J. Carter, The Virtues of Aging (1998).

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old age

the last part of the individual LIFE COURSE, associated with declining faculties, low social worth and detachment from previous social commitments. It is a social construct rather than a biological stage, since its onset and significance vary historically and culturally. See also AGEING, GERONTOLOGY.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Old Age

 

the period of life that inevitably sets in after middle age and is characterized by significant metabolic, structural, and functional changes in organs and systems that limit the adaptability of the body. Old age is a result of the dynamic process of aging. According to one system of age classification, 75–90 years of age is considered old age, and over 90, advanced old age.

An individual’s physical appearance, work capacity, and mental abilities change with old age, as does the course of many diseases. The skin becomes thinner and less elastic, and wrinkles and pigment spots appear. The hair turns gray and falls out. Visual acuity decreases, and lenticular opacity develops, often resulting in the formation of cataracts. An individual may grow shorter, and curvature of the spine is common. Joint mobility is limited, and bones become fragile and lose calcium. Mental performance declines, and a person becomes more easily fatigued, less able to recall recent events, and subject to sleep disturbances.

Because of their adaptive mechanisms, some old people can maintain a high level of intellectual activity for a long time and remain alert and creative. With old age, organs and tissues are less influenced by neural factors but are more sensitive to humoral influences. Age-related changes in the vascular wall and in protein and lipid metabolism contribute to the progression of atherosclerosis. Changes in digestion may cause vitamin deficiency. The rate of aging and extent of changes in organs and tissues vary with each individual. (For changes that occur with aging on the cellular level and in functional systems see.)

V. V. FROLKIS

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

old age

[′ōld ′āj]
(geology)
The last stage of the erosion cycle in the development of the topography of a region in which erosion has reduced the surface almost to base level and the land forms are marked by simplicity of form and subdued relief. Also known as topographic old age.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
Employee and self-employed California state temporary contributions for government disability insurance data; SSA social insurance self-employed worker contributions to OASDHI data; Census Bureau state temporary disability insurance data; CMS supplemental medical insurance enrollment data; personal contributions for state unemployment insurance data from the states; OVA veterans' insurance premiums data.
Employee and self- Data for California state temporary employed contributions disability insurance; SSA data on OASDHI for government social contributions from self-employed insurance workers; Census Bureau data on state temporary disability insurance; CMS supplemental medical insurance enrollment data; data on personal contributions for state unemployment insurance; DVA data on veterans' insurance premiums.
(a) Old-Age, Survivors, Disability, and Hospital Insurance (OASDHI) taxes, i.e., Social Security taxes, levied on salaries and wages (under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act, (FICA)).