old age

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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.


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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.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.)


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

old age

[′ōld ′āj]
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 ?
One may gauge the relationship between the context in which elderly people go about their lives and the way they form their perceptions of old age. Old age as a concept laden with negative stereotypes is embodied in criteria that draw more upon the immediate social context than upon the general social context.
In 1908 British enacted "The Old Age Pension Act." The United State passed "The Social Security Act" in 1935.
I believe that old age has been designed as an ante-room to heaven.
So middle-aged and older people have been forced to look elsewhere notably to books and articles that offer guidance along the path to old age.
They cry every day hiding away from us but we know they are in pain and with initiatives like these we wish to make them happy," said Matrumayee Priyadarshini, coordinator of the old age home.
Then they take off to South Africa and leave you behind because of that one wheat incident when she was 18!We have to be careful here, gentlemen, or these children will embitter us in adulthood.Lets not allow them to bring us sadness in our old age, especially after we have struggled with them, sacrificed for them and when the time comes for them to bring us joy and make us proud we shall be left as mama is called aside and given the plans for Christmas which dont include you.
The motion tabled by Ghanzi North, MP Mr Noah Salakae, requested government 'to consider encouraging willing financially able beneficiaries of the Old Age Pension Scheme to opt out if they feel they do not need it, to enable government to deal with the current social living expense.'
Extending beyond the provision of income for mere subsistence, national policies created the opportunity for sustainable retirement through social security systems that ensured protection against the loss of both income and health in old age. This is the legacy of social security programs in all industrialized nations.
The Progressive Party persuaded the Liberals to give Canada its first national old age security program in the 1920s.
Especially as he has grown frailer, John Paul has spoken about the value of old age. He has held himself up as an example, refusing to hide his quivering hands and his inability to walk.
As early as 1670 an unsympathetic commentator had remarked of paintings like the 1653 Aristotle with a Bust of Homer (similar, though not in the exhibition) that high art did not lie in "draped half-lengths with only the tip of the nose illuminated, the rest being left so dark that one cannot identify the source of light." But that is what Rembrandt limited himself to in old age: Isolated individuals before him in the studio replace the interacting figures of his earlier paintings.