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At a Glance

Current Perspectives on Gerontology and Geriatrics

Aging, a process resulting from genetic and acquired factors, begins at birth and continues throughout life. Acquired factors include lifestyle, education, diseases, and impairments. Healthy aging is considered the process whereby the person can ward off diseases and impairments and maintains a relatively healthy lifestyle until death. Considering 65 years old as the beginning of old age is a misnomer. This age was selected because people traditionally retired from the workforce. Now days, many older adults consider themselves ‘young’ and old age does not begin until their mid to late 70’s.

Gerontology has been considered the study of the elderly or old age. The study of aging is both multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary, including fields such as biology, psychology, sociology, religion, humanities, economics, public policy and law. Professionals who study aging from these perspectives are called gerontologists. Some gerontologists focus on the effects of aging on the individual, whereas others study how the aging population affects society.

Geriatrics is a branch of medicine that specializes in the care of older adults. Geriatric studies include both health and disease; and the health care of the older adult and their caregiver.

More recently, emphasis has been placed on healthy aging and ‘aging in place’. That is, the ability of the older adult to remain at home and use community resources. Due to the rapidly growing population of older adults, various governmental and local agencies have begun to focus on the needs of older adults so they may remain as contributing members of society.

In 2003, Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD) introduced the Elder Fall Prevention Act. This legislation creates a public education campaign directed at seniors to help prevent falls and reduce injury and to fund research to identify risk factors for falls and effective fall reduction measures.

In 2003, the Environmental Protection Agency released a document focusing on issues surrounding the elderly, Aging Initiative, Protecting the Health of Older Americans.

In 2003, the President’s Challenge was issued to help all Americans, including seniors, get fit: The President's Challenge - You're it. Get fit!, as well as promoting healthy lifestyles: Prevention Makes Common ‘Cents’.


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