Gerontology


Gerontology

Gerontology (from the Greek γέρων, geron, "old man" and -λογία, -logy, "study of"; coined by Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov in 1903) is the study of the social, psychological and biological aspects of aging. It is distinguished from geriatrics, which is the branch of medicine that studies the diseases of the elderly.

Gerontology encompasses the following:

  • studying physical, mental, and social changes in people as they age
  • investigating the aging(ageing), process itself (biogerontology)
  • investigating the interface of normal ageing and age-related disease (geroscience)
  • investigating the effects of an ageing population on society
  • applying this knowledge to policies and programs, including the macroscopic (for example government planning) and microscopic (for example running a nursing home) perspectives.

The multidisciplinary nature of gerontology means that there are a number of sub-fields, as well as associated fields such as psychology and sociology that overlap with gerontology.

The field of gerontology is relatively new, and as such often lacks structural and institutional support. Relatively few universities offer a PhD in gerontology. However, the huge increase in the elderly population in post-industrial Western nations has led to this becoming one of the most rapidly growing fields.

Contents

Biogerontology

Biogerontology is the sub-field of gerontology concerned with the biological processes of aging. It involves interdisciplinary research on biological aging's causes, effects, and mechanisms. Conservative biogerontologists such as Leonard Hayflick have predicted that the human life expectancy will peak at about 85 (88 for females, 82 for males), although the consensus now is that the numbers will continue to rise.

Biogerontologists usually work at research universities or laboratories. The majority of biogerontologists have a PhD, sometimes a MD.

The multidisciplinary focus of gerontology and biogerontology means that there are a number of sub-fields, ... (Biogerontology Net, retrieved by Dr. Robelyn Garcia, 2010)

Biomedical gerontology, also known as experimental gerontology and life extension, is a sub-discipline of biogerontology that endeavors to slow, prevent, and even reverse aging in both humans and animals. Approaches include curing age-related diseases and slowing down the underlying processes of aging. Most "life extensionists" believe the human life span can be increased within the next century, if not sooner. Optimists such as Aubrey de Grey are of the opinion that the first person to live a thousand years has already been born. Some biogerontologists take an intermediate position, emphasizing the study of the aging process as a means of mitigating aging-associated diseases, while either claiming that maximum life span can not be altered or that it is undesirable to try.

Medical gerontology

As with biogerontology, medical gerontology studies the biological causes and effects of aging. Both fields are considered by many scientists to be the most important frontiers in aging research.

Social gerontology

Social gerontology is a multi-disciplinary sub-field that specializes in studying or working with older adults.

Social gerontologists may have degrees or training in social work, nursing, psychology, sociology, demography, gerontology, or other social science disciplines. Social gerontologists are responsible for educating, researching, and advancing the broader causes of older people.

Because issues of life span and life extension need numbers to quantify them, there is an overlap with demography. Those who study the demography of the human life span differ from those who study the social demographics of aging.

Social work with older adults

Social work with older adults, known as geriatric social work practice, is considered to be both a macro and micro practice with individuals over the age of 60 or 65, their families and communities, aging related policy, and aging research. Geriatric social workers typically provide counseling, direct services, care coordination, community planning, and advocacy in an array of agencies and organizations including private practice, in home, neighborhoods, hospitals, senior congregate living, hospice/end of life care, senior centers, oncology centers and residential long term care facilities such as nursing facilities. At the macro level, geriatric social workers work within state departments of health, adult protective services, and at universities and colleges, as well as Administration on Aging offices on a federal level in the United States.

Prevalence

Rapid aging populations are expected worldwide. In the United States, the "baby boomer" generation will begin to turn 65 in 2011. Those over the age of 85 are projected to increase from 5.3 million to 21 million by 2050.[1] With the rapid growth of the aging population, social work education and training specialized in older adults and practitioners interested in working with older adults are increasingly in demand[2][3] In the last decade, geriatric social work education, practice, and research have received substantial support from foundations such as the John. A Hartford Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Atlantic Philanthropies.[4]

History of gerontology

In the medieval Islamic world, several physicians wrote on issues related to Gerontology. Avicenna's The Canon of Medicine (1025) offered instruction for the care of the aged, including diet and remedies for issues including constipation.[5] Arabic physician Ibn Al-Jazzar Al-Qayrawani (Algizar, c. 898-980) wrote on the medicine and health of the elderly. [6] His scholarly work covers sleep disorders, forgetfulness, how to strengthen memory[7][8][9] and causes of mortality[10] Ishaq ibn Hunayn (died 910) also wrote on treatments for forgetfulness.[11]

While the number of aged humans, and the maximum life span, tended to increase in every century since the 14th, society tended to consider caring for an elderly relative as a family issue. It was not until the coming of the Industrial Revolution that ideas shifted in favor of a societal care-system. Care homes for the aged emerged in the 19th century.

Some early pioneers, such as Michel Eugène Chevreul, who himself lived to be 102, believed that aging itself should be a science to be studied. The word "gerontology" was coined circa 1903[12] by Elie Metchnikoff.

It was not until the 1940s, however, that pioneers like James Birren began organizing gerontology into its own field. Recognizing that there were experts in many fields all dealing with the elderly, it became apparent that a group like the Gerontological Society of America (founded in 1945) was needed. Two decades later, James Birren was appointed as the founding director of the first academic research center devoted exclusively to the study of aging, the Ethel Percy Andrus Gerontology Center at the University of Southern California.[13][14] In 1967, the University of South Florida and the University of North Texas (formerly North Texas State University) received Older Americans Act training grants from the U.S. Administration on Aging to launch the nation's first degree programs in gerontology, at the master's level. In 1975, the University of Southern California's Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, with Birren as its founding dean, became the country's first school of gerontology within a university and, later, offered the first PhD in Gerontology degree. Since that time, a number of other universities have formed departments or schools of gerontology or aging studies. More generally, gerontological education has flourished in the United States since 1967 and degrees at all academic levels are now offered by a number of colleges and universities. [15]

From the 1950s to the 1970s, the field was mainly social and concerned with issues such as nursing homes and health care. However, research by Leonard Hayflick in the 1960s (showing that a cell line culture will only divide about 50 times) helped lead to a separate branch, biogerontology. It became apparent that simply treating aging was not enough. Finding out about the aging process, and what could be done about it, became an issue.

Biogerontology was also bolstered when research by Cynthia Kenyon and others demonstrated that life extension was possible in lower life forms such as fruit flies, worms, and yeast. So far, however, nothing more than incremental (marginal) increases in life span have been seen in any mammalian species.

Today, social gerontology remains the largest sector of the field, but the biogerontological side is seen as being the "hot" side.[16]

See also

References

  1. ^ Aging Stats: http://www.agingstats.gov/agingstatsdotnet/Main_Site/Data/2008_Documents/Population.aspx
  2. ^ Institute for Geriatric Social Work, Boston University http://www.bu.edu/igsw/who-we-are/
  3. ^ Geriatric Social Work Initiative: http://www.gswi.org/
  4. ^ Not Just Another Population: https://www.familiesinsociety.org/new/SpecialIssue/OlderAdults/86_3/PDFs/Ed_Austi.pdf
  5. ^ Howell, Trevor H. (1987). "Avicenna and His Regimen of Old Age". Age and Ageing 16 (1): 58–59. doi:10.1093/ageing/16.1.58. PMID 3551552. 
  6. ^ Vesalius Official journal of the International Society for the History of Medicine
  7. ^ Algizar a web page in french
  8. ^ Ibn Jazzar
  9. ^ [Geritt Bos, Ibn al-Jazzar, Risala fi l-isyan (Treatise on forgetfulness), London, 1995 ]
  10. ^ Al Jazzar
  11. ^ Islamic culture and medical arts
  12. ^ Online Etymology Dictionary
  13. ^ USC Andrus Gerontology Center
  14. ^ Liebig, Phoebe S.; Birren, James E. (2003). "The Andrus Center: A tale of gerontological firsts". Contemporary Gerontology 10 (1): 7–12. http://www-scf.usc.edu/~sga/documents/Liebig%20Birren.pdf. Retrieved 2010-08-23. 
  15. ^ Haley, William E.; Zelinski, Elizabeth (2007). "Progress and challenges in graduate education in gerontology: The U.S. experience". Gerontology & Geriatrics Education 27 (3): 11–26. doi:10.1300/J021v27n03_02. 
  16. ^ Effros RB (April 2005). "Roy Walford and the immunologic theory of aging". Immun Ageing 2 (1): 7. doi:10.1186/1742-4933-2-7. PMC 1131916. PMID 15850487. http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?tool=pmcentrez&artid=1131916. 

17. Macieira-Coelho A., (2003) Biology of Aging, Progress in Molecular and Subcellular Biology, vol. 30, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg New York, ISSN 0079-6484, ISBN 3-540-43827-0.

External links


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • gerontology — gerontology. См. геронтология. (Источник: «Англо русский толковый словарь генетических терминов». Арефьев В.А., Лисовенко Л.А., Москва: Изд во ВНИРО, 1995 г.) …   Молекулярная биология и генетика. Толковый словарь.

  • gerontology — 1903, coined in English from Gk. geron (gen. gerontos) old man, from PIE root *gere to become ripe, grow old (Cf. Skt. jara old age, jarati makes frail, causes to age; Avestan zaurvan old age; Ossetic zarond old man; Armenian cer o …   Etymology dictionary

  • gerontology — ► NOUN ▪ the scientific study of old age and old people. DERIVATIVES gerontological adjective gerontologist noun …   English terms dictionary

  • gerontology — [jer΄ən täl′ə jē] n. [Gr geronto < gerōn (see GERIATRICS) + LOGY] the scientific study of the process of aging and of the problems of aged people: see GERIATRICS gerontological [jər΄əntə läj′i kəl] adj. gerontologist n …   English World dictionary

  • gerontology — The study of the processes of ageing , old age, and the elderly. Frequently viewed as a branch of biology, with a focus on the role of genetic factors (the extent to which ageing is pre programmed), the study of the social aspects of ageing,… …   Dictionary of sociology

  • gerontology — noun a) the study of the elderly, and of the aging process itself. b) the branch of science that deals with the problems of aged people. It is to be distinguished from geriatrics, which is the study of the diseases of the elderly. Gerontology… …   Wiktionary

  • gerontology — [[t]ʤe̱rəntɒ̱ləʤi[/t]] N UNCOUNT Gerontology is the study of the process by which we get old, how our bodies change, and the problems that old people have …   English dictionary

  • gerontology — noun Etymology: International Scientific Vocabulary Date: 1903 the comprehensive study of aging and the problems of the aged compare geriatric 1 • gerontological also gerontologic adjective • gerontologist noun …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • gerontology — n. [Gr. gerontos, old man; logos, discourse] The study of aging …   Dictionary of invertebrate zoology

  • gerontology — gerontological /jeuh ron tl oj i keuhl/, adj. gerontologist, n. /jer euhn tol euh jee, jear /, n. the branch of science that deals with aging and the problems of aged persons. [1900 05; GERONTO + LOGY] * * * …   Universalium


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.