HLTB01H3F: Health, Aging and the Life Cycle
Department of Health Studies
University of Toronto at Scarborough
Instructor: Anna Walsh.
Term: Winter 2010 Mondays 3 p.m.-5 p.m.
Lecture Room: Room AA 112.
Aldwin, Carolyn M. & Diane F. Gilmer. 2004. Health, Illness, and Optimal Aging:
Biological and Psychosocial Perspectives. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications,
Introduction to the course: course outline, assignments and exams.
Brief overview and discussion. What is aging? Introduction to basic definitions and
Models of Optimal Aging.
A&G: Chapters 1 +12.
Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers.
- Lord Alfred Tennyson
•What is wisdom?
1Aging of the population is probably one of the most discussed and debated
subjects in Canada today. While some analysts forecast the worst in terms of costs
to public services and labour market shortages, others argue that Canada is well-
equipped to face this social and demographic phenomenon - and that people
shouldn't worry that much about the growing percentage of seniors in the
Theories of aging
•Aging processes are plastic, the rate at which we age is affected in part by our
environment and our exposure to different circumstances.
•Psychosocial gerontologists have considered the emotional, cognitive and social
aspects of aging.
•Biogerontologists are concerned with the changes in the molecular, cellular and
organ systems that contribute to the rate of aging. Free radicals can increase the
rate of deterioration and antioxidants may decrease the rate of aging.
•Researchers in the field of health psychology and behavioral medicine are
concerned with the psychosocial factors that can impact upon an individual's
•There is emerging consensus across these 3 fields of study that provide some
understanding of the protective factors and harmful factors associated with aging.
•These advancements have contributed to the ongoing interest in optimal aging.
•In 1963, Birren, Butler, Greenhouse and Yarrow offered a distinction between
aging and disease. Their research offered the recognition that aging is not
necessarily associated with relentless disability and pain. Their findings
contributed towards the interdisciplinary study of aging and gerontology. Today,
the medical community has demonstrated ongoing successes in the treatment of
many chronic illnesses associated with prolonged aging.
•Biogerontology = the study of biological processes giving rise to old age.
•Gerontology = the study of the elderly, and of the aging process itself. It normally
refers to the study of the biological process of aging, not its medical
consequences. It concerns itself with the social, psychological and biological
aspects of the aging process.
•Geriatrics = the study of the diseases of the elderly. Gerontology covers the
social, psychological and biology aspects of aging.
•The field of Gerontology is still a much unknown area of study where no specific
theory can offer any general understanding of successful aging. There are many
theories that have been proposed and still many studies that will be advanced in
the future to better understand this stage in life.
When does late life began?
•The population of years over the age of 65 in Canada is a very heterogeneous
group whose health status, cultural origin, socioeconomic status, housing needs
and so on vary extensively. This requires the ability to appreciate and understand
the distinguishing differences between seniors rather than to arbitrarily group
them in one homogeneous population. There has been no consensus given to
when late life begins. There are some that have argued as young as 50 or 60 and
some as of 65 and older. It has been common practice to define young old
persons as those between the ages of 65-years-old and 79 and old old individuals
as those between the ages of 80 ad 99 and the old old that are centenarians or 100
years or older. Despite the fact that there are some individuals that will
experience disability in their 40s or 50s, most young old individuals are generally
speaking relatively healthy.
•Well-being- There has also been no consensus given to the definitions of well-
being and wellness or how to measure or assess them qualitatively or quantifiably.
•Age = the number of years that a person has been alive.