Skip to Content


« Back to Glossary Index

**Historical Contributions:**
– In the medieval Islamic world, physicians like Avicenna and Ibn Al-Jazzar wrote on gerontology.
– Élie Metchnikoff coined the term gerontology in 1903.

**Demographics and Aging Trends:**
– The US population aged 65 years and older grew significantly over the years.
– By 2025, a quarter of the US and Canada’s population will be aged 65 years and older.
– The oldest-old (85 years and older) are projected to increase substantially by 2050.

**Gender Differences and Age:**
– Women outnumbered men in the older population in the US.
– Women have a greater life expectancy and lower mortality rates at older ages compared to men.
– The gender gap between men and women in the older population has narrowed.

**Geographic Distribution of Older Adults:**
– Regional variations in the distribution of older adults across the US.
– Rhode Island was the only state with a decrease in the number of older adults from 2000 to 2010.
– All states experienced an increase in the population of adults aged 85 years and older from 2000 to 2010.

**Sub-Fields and Theories in Gerontology:**
Gerontology has subfields like biogerontology.
– Social gerontology is a multidisciplinary field specializing in studying older adults.
– Theoretical frameworks include Activity Theory, Disengagement Theory, Age Stratification Theory, Life Course Theory, and Cumulative Advantage/Disadvantage Theory.

Gerontology (Wikipedia)

Gerontology (/ˌɛrənˈtɒləi/ JERR-ən-TOL-ə-jee) is the study of the social, cultural, psychological, cognitive, and biological aspects of aging. The word was coined by Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov in 1903, from the Greek γέρων (gérōn), meaning "old man", and -λογία (-logía), meaning "study of". The field is distinguished from geriatrics, which is the branch of medicine that specializes in the treatment of existing disease in older adults. Gerontologists include researchers and practitioners in the fields of biology, nursing, medicine, criminology, dentistry, social work, physical and occupational therapy, psychology, psychiatry, sociology, economics, political science, architecture, geography, pharmacy, public health, housing, and anthropology.

photo of older adults sitting around a table, playing cards
Older adults playing cards in Amsterdam, 1970

The multidisciplinary nature of gerontology means that there are a number of sub-fields which overlap with gerontology. There are policy issues, for example, involved in government planning and the operation of nursing homes, investigating the effects of an aging population on society, and the design of residential spaces for older people that facilitate the development of a sense of place or home. Dr. Lawton, a behavioral psychologist at the Philadelphia Geriatric Center, was among the first to recognize the need for living spaces designed to accommodate the elderly, especially those with Alzheimer's disease. As an academic discipline the field is relatively new. The USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology created the first PhD, master's and bachelor's degree programs in gerontology in 1975.

« Back to Glossary Index