Old age


Old age
Old Woman Dozing by Nicolaes Maes (1656). Royal Museums of Fine Arts, Brussels

Old age (also referred to as one's eld) consists of ages nearing or surpassing the average life span of human beings, and thus the end of the human life cycle. Euphemisms and terms for old people include seniors (American usage), senior citizens (British and American usage) and the elderly.

Old people have limited regenerative abilities and are more prone to disease, syndromes, and sickness than other adults. For the biology of ageing, see senescence. The medical study of the aging process is gerontology, and the study of diseases that afflict the elderly is geriatrics.

Contents

Definition

Elders from Turkey, 2010

The boundary between middle age and old age cannot be defined exactly because it does not have the same meaning in all societies. People can be considered old because of certain changes in their activities or social roles. Examples: people may be considered old when they become grandparents, or when they begin to do less or different work—retirement.

The 1800s was the start of old age pensions, beginning in Germany, where the fixed retirement age at that time was 70. The fixed retirement age of 70 was the first attempt at defining the start of old age. In the United States of America, and the United Kingdom, the age of 65 was traditionally considered the beginning of the senior years because, until recently, United States and British people became eligible to retire at this age with full Social Security benefits. In 2003, the age at which a US citizen became eligible for full Social Security benefits began to increase gradually, and will continue to do so until it reaches 67 in 2027. As of 2011, the age is 66.[1]The original raison d'etre behind old age pensions was to prevent poverty and elderly persons from being reduced to beggary, which is still common in some underdeveloped countries, but growing life expectancies and elder populations has brought into question the model under which pension systems were originally designed for.

Physical changes

A gray-haired old woman from the United Kingdom

There is often a general physical decline, and people become less active. Old age can cause, amongst other things:

Demographic changes

Population aged at least 65 years in 2005

In the industrialized countries, life expectancy has increased consistently over the last decades.[2] In the United States the proportion of people aged 65 or older increased from 4% in 1900 to about 12% in 2000.[3] In 1900, only about 3 million of the nation's citizens had reached 65. By 2000, the number of senior citizens had increased to about 35 million.[citation needed] Population experts estimate[citation needed] that more than 50 million Americans—about 17 percent of the population—will be 65 or older in 2020. The number of old people is growing around the world chiefly because of the post–World War II baby boom, and increases in the provision and standards of health care.

The growing amount of people living to their 80s and 90s in the developed world has strained public welfare systems and also resulted in increased incidence of diseases like cancer and dementia that were rarely seen in premodern times.

Psychosocial aspects

An elderly Somali woman.

According to Erik Erikson’s "Eight Stages of Life" theory, the human personality is developed in a series of eight stages that take place from the time of birth and continue on throughout an individual’s complete life. He characterises old age as a period of "Integrity vs. Despair", during which a person focuses on reflecting back on their life. Those who are unsuccessful during this phase will feel that their life has been wasted and will experience many regrets. The individual will be left with feelings of bitterness and despair. Those who feel proud of their accomplishments will feel a sense of integrity. Successfully completing this phase means looking back with few regrets and a general feeling of satisfaction. These individuals will attain wisdom, even when confronting death.[4][5][6]

Life expectancy

In most parts of the world, women live, on average, longer than men; even so, the disparities vary between 9 years or more in countries such as Sweden and the United States to no difference or higher life expectancy for men in countries such as Zimbabwe and Uganda.[7]

The number of elderly persons worldwide began to surge in the second half of the 20th century. Up to that time (and still true in underdeveloped countries), five or less percent of the population was over 65. Few lived longer than their 70s and people who attained advanced age (ie. their 80s) were rare enough to be a novelty and were revered as wise sages. Accidents and disease claimed many people before they could attain old age, and because health problems in those over 65 meant a quick death in most cases. If a person lived to an advanced age, it was due to genetic factors and/or a relatively easy lifestyle, since diseases of old age could not be treated before the 20th century.

Individuals who became famous in their old age

Harry Patch, known as "the Last Tommy", was a British supercentenarian, and the last surviving soldier to have fought in the trenches of the First World War.
A smiling old man from Chile

See also

References

  1. ^ "Age To Receive Full Social Security Retirement Benefits". U.S. Social Security Administration. http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/retirechart.htm. Retrieved 06 June 2011. 
  2. ^ "Table 26: Life expectancy at birth, at 65 years of age, and at 75 years of age by race and sex: United States, selected years, 1900 - 2005". Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/hus08.pdf#026. Retrieved 26 August 2010. 
  3. ^ Meyer, Julie (2001). "Census 2000 Brief, C2KBR/01-12, U.S.". "Washington, DC": "Census Bureau". http://www.census.gov/prod/2001pubs/c2kbr01-12.pdf. Retrieved 2009-03-17. 
  4. ^ Erikson, E.H. (1968). Identity: Youth and Crisis. New York: Norton.
  5. ^ Erikson, E.H. (1963). Childhood and Society. (2nd ed.). New York: Norton.
  6. ^ Carver, C.S. & Scheir, M.F. (2000). Perspectives on Personality. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon
  7. ^ de Blij, Harm. The power of place. Geography, Destiny, and Globalization's Rough Landscape. Oxford University Press. London:2009. p161ff
  8. ^ The art of living long (1917, [c1903)] from Internet Archive
  9. ^ How to Live 100 Years, or Discourses on the Sober Life Soil And Health Library

External links

Preceded by
Middle age
Stages of human development
Old age
Succeeded by
Death

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  • old age — old age, adj. the last period of human life, now often considered to be the years after 65. [1300 50; ME] * * * Introduction also called  senescence         in human beings, the final stage of the normal life span. Definitions of old age are not… …   Universalium

  • Old age — Old Old, a. [Compar. {Older}; superl. {Oldest}.] [OE. old, ald, AS. ald, eald; akin to D. oud, OS. ald, OFries. ald, old, G. alt, Goth. alpeis, and also to Goth. alan to grow up, Icel. ala to bear, produce, bring up, L. alere to nourish. Cf.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Old Age — «Old Age» Canción de Nirvana Box set With the Lights Out Publicación Noviembre de 2004 …   Wikipedia Español

  • old age — n [U] the part of your life when you are old ▪ You need to start putting money away for your old age. in (sb s) old age ▪ My mother had a very lively mind, even in her old age …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • old age — noun uncount the period of time when you are old: More and more people are surviving into old age. my/your/her etc old age: I need someone to look after me in my old age …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • old´-age´ — old age, the years of life from about 65 on in human beings. –old´ age´, adjective …   Useful english dictionary

  • old age — [n] latter part of animate life advancing years*, age, agedness, autumn of life*, caducity, debility, declining years*, decrepitude, dotage, elderliness, evening of life*, feebleness, golden age*, golden years*, infirmity, second childhood*,… …   New thesaurus

  • old age — ► NOUN 1) the later part of normal life. 2) the state of being old …   English terms dictionary

  • old age — n. the advanced years of life, esp. human life, when strength and vigor decline: cf. MIDDLE AGE …   English World dictionary

  • old age — index longevity Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary


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