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  • Writer's pictureVedant Parikh

Lab Notes on: Gerontology

Rebecca Zhang's notes on gerontology, a field focused on aging and its implications.

 

Aging is a process every organism must undergo throughout its life. It is the process that connects us, humans, with the tiniest of worms and the largest of whales. In the US alone, about one in five people with be over 65 by 2050, so understanding aging and life in old age is becoming a topic of increasing importance. While geriatrics focuses on the medical facets of aging, gerontology embodies the broader physical, mental, and social facets of aging. It focuses on the changes that occur from middle to old age and the collective societal changes that occur with them.


Gerontology can be divided into more specific categories. Biogerontology, for example, focuses on the scientific aspects of aging, including the biological process, history, and even prevention. It also aims to inhibit the development of age-related diseases and slow, or even halt, the aging process. Environmental gerontology relates a person’s social and physical environment to their aging, as the environment someone surrounds oneself in can have a significant impact of their mental and physical health. Jurisprudential gerontology studies how the law and any legal systems impact older people and aging. There is even community gerontology, which considers aging and how it affects communities. Community gerontology considers said communities to have important roles in aging, which can be in some way akin to environmental gerontology. Social gerontology can be considered to tie all these subfields together, as it involves the actual element of working with the people gerontology studies. Nurses, social workers, psychologists, lawyers, and more may work in social gerontology.


Since it utilizes both the biological and psychological fields, those working in gerontology can include physicians, social workers, economists, and researching biologists and behavioral scientists. As previously mentioned, the knowledge gained from this field of study is used every day to influence policy and technology building to accommodate the older population and enhance the health and quality of aging people. In the USA, we have the Gerontological Society of America (GSA) dedicated to this particular objective, aiming to contribute to the research, education, and practice of gerontology.


One of the larger and increasingly prevalent topics of focus in gerontology is technology. Its rapidly growing presence in our general lives makes the incorporation of it in gerontology essential, especially when considering more social and caretaking elements. The consideration of technology in gerontology goes beyond helping older adults figure out how to use new phones or computers, it includes helping them carry out daily tasks and routines and embodies five broad categories: physical and mental health, mobility, social connectedness, safety, and daily activities and leisure. In Asia, for example, the use of robots as household helpers is an idea that has existed for decades. More recently, electronic and mobile health monitoring technologies have been created to improve and maintain the health of older adults. This is especially useful when considering that caretakers may not always be around and can also be rather expensive to hire.


A field of growing importance and increasing prevalence, gerontology and the information we gain from it will at one point in their lives impact everyone. It embodies aging, the process of aging, and how to accommodate those who have aged. In the future, gerontology will expand even more and play an ever increasing role in our lives, especially as we grow older.

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