Common Terms Related To Aging

The interpretation of aging as a physiologic process upon which pathology and disease are superimposed has been formalized under the separate disciplines of gerontology (the study of aging processes) and geriatrics (the prevention and treatment of the disabilities and diseases associated with old age) (Table 2). The terms "aging," "old age," and "senescence" are often used interchangeably despite some substantive differences. "Aging" refers more appropriately to the process of growing old, regardless of chronologic age; for our purposes here, it includes all the physiologic changes that occur with the passage of time, from fertilization of the ovum to death of the individual. The World Health Organization breaks down "old age," classifying persons 60 to 74 years of age as the young-old, those 75 to 84 as the old-old, and those 85 years and older as the oldest-old. Centenarians, of course, are individuals 100 years old and older (Table 2). "Senescence" is generally restricted to the stage of old age characteristic of the later years of the life span (Table 2).

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