Aging begins the moment an individual is born. A baby grows and matures toward becoming an adult and at some point in time the aging process changes toward one of decline. This decline is manifested in reduced functioning ultimately leading toward death as referred to by many as aging or “getting old”. The technical term for this decline resulting in reduced functioning ability, ultimately concluding in death is referred to as senescence.
The aging process and the resulting changes are becoming much more well-defined by medical science, which is now becoming very aware of how and why these changes occur. However, two “basic mysteries” remain: (1) whether aging and dying have a purpose, and (2) what that purpose is. These mysteries have resulted in people throughout history searching for a “fountain of youth” that will delay the aging process, and prolong the period of time available for people to remain vigorous, healthy young adults. And so it is, that scientific researchers as well as individuals continue to look for ways to slow or actually reverse the aging process.
The science of aging continues to demonstrate exceptional progress. In the last century, life expectancy for people in the United States has grown phenomenally. As a result of this significant increase in life expectancy, the conceptions that many in our society have of aging and the elderly has changed dramatically. In actuality, improvements in life expectancy actually changed in two stages. First, the infant mortality rate plummeted largely because of improved sanitation and the increased availability of vaccines and treatments for childhood diseases, such as the antibiotics being developed. Second, diseases and disability have been reduced significantly or have been delayed among the elderly, because of improvements in health care and the continuing development of an increased emphasis on preventive medicine. In spite of all of this progress, even the healthiest (and luckiest) individuals do not usually live beyond the age of 130.
Information adapted from The Merck Manual of Health and Aging
Additional information and web page by Paul Susic Ph.D.Licensed Psychologist