INTERPRETING DATA ON AGING
A REPRESENTATIVE DEFINITIONS
“Geriatric” means the medical care of elderly people, being derived from the Greek word geron (old man) and iatros (medical care).
The British Geriatric Society’s definition of “geriatric medicine” is the branch of general medicine concerned with the clinical, preventive, remedial, and social aspects of illness in the elderly.
While “old age” is the period in which we are no longer capable of fighting off various insults as a result of the accumulation of wear and tear of the tissues.
Many people agree that the definition of geriatric is the age at which the functions physically and mentally begin to deteriorate more clearly than did in other stages of age or life and observable characteristics appear. Meaning that the process of aging leaves clearly visible traces.
Although individual differences prevail, elderly adults tend to look significantly different from the middle-aged, who typically appear different from young adults in skin, face, hair, height, weight, breasts and voice at the same time there are internal changes in musculature, the heart and cardiovascular system, lungs, stamina, bones and joints reflexes and reaction time, digestion and excretion.
The committee of the World Health Organization chose in 1972 that the age as it agrees with the age of pension in most countries but in our community sixty years old consider as aging (WHO, 1988). Consequently, we shall consider the age 60 years the beginning of old age, but in other countries for example the United States preventive services Task Force used age 65 as the cutoff to define older adults.
Changes in population size depends on birth, immigration, deaths, and emigration. Growth in the total population is most sensitive to a decline in mortality rates, where growth in the older population is due to a decline in fertility rates.
The current ratio of elderly women to elderly men is three to two, and it is five to two over age 85. These ratios are expected gradually to increase through the end of this century and to increase sharply in the middle of the twenty-first century.
Ageing happens to different people at different rates. There are vast differences between a 65 years-old individual and a 100 years old individual. Classification into smaller age ranges are recognized.
These arbitrary division represent three ranges of biologic age groups:
The young -old are individuals between 65 and 75 years, a group in relatively good health;
The old-old are Individuals between 75 and 85 years, a group whose health is beginning to decline; and
The oldest-old are Individuals older than 85years, a group at survivors who are in the poorest health.
Theoretic gerontology uses these fundamental considerations:
(1) aging is developmental,
(2) old age is a gift of modern technology,
(3) differentiate normal versus pathologic aging,and
(4) there is no universally accepted theory of aging.
Ageing is characterized by a general and gradual decline of physical and physiologic capacities. There are certain morphologic and histopathologic degenerative changes that alter one’s functional status, which are commonly found among those who are advanced in age. These degenerative changes are progressive and irreversible and involve multiple organ systems.
The physiologic changes of the different organs in the elderly result in a diminishing efficiency of the organism and its capability of adapting to new and unusual conditions.
Changes in cardiovascular functional capacity occur with ageing, regardless of life-style. Unfortunately the sedentary lifestyle that is typical in older adults accelerates the decline in functional capacity and increase the risk for losing independence at a relatively young age.