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Health Studies
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Anna Walsh

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HLTB01H3Y: Health, Aging and the Life Cycle
Department of Health Studies
University of Toronto at Scarborough
Summer 2010
Instructor: Anna Walsh.
Term: Summer 2010 Mondays 10 a.m.-12 p.m.
Lecture Room: SW 319.
May 17/2010.
Theories of Aging.
A&G: Chapter 3- Theories of Aging: Biological and Psychosocial Theories.
Models and Theories:
- we hear about different ways we can map out our genes > gives us a better understanding because
we have more technological advances
- we will be challenged to keep up with the new advances and new research that will question
previous theories. We will look at the theories of aging and understand that we did not get it right
- Models and theories are often times not carefully distinguished from one another in the literature
and create this ongoing problem.
- We are the young people and are collectively appreciating the issues being described. We have no
idea what these things really mean and when we are 65 +, many of the concepts will come to
mind. We need to understand that the aging process is occurring right now and we will eventually
get old
- We need to have a positive view of aging, we are forgetting that our theories are not in line with
reality. Theorists before believed that he elderly didnt want to contribute to society and felt that
they were no longer a vital part of our society
- We need to appreciate that they want to remain active and we can ensure this through their quality
of life
Aging is usually defined as the:
Death is the final event
Theories of Aging:
x Aging processes occur at the biological, psychological and social levels.
- depending on what your interest is, it will dictate how you look at things.
Biomedical model of care:
- look at human body as a machine
- medicalization of health and health care issues associated with aging
- at the stage in our lives where we think of technology and we think of throwing the old out and
getting the new
- All relates to how we look at the body when something is not working well we get a new one.
- We don’t think of the body as being affected by something more than mechanics, because we just
think of it as a machine.
- Is the current framework that is used all the time
- We define our treatment and assessment of individuals based on these definitions where we
believe that someone has to be restored to perfect health
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- The doctors become like mechanics. We rarely look at things holistically and see that it is more
complex and we are more than just a collection of parts
- We have emotions and cannot separate the body from the mind
- We look at the care of the elderly as a burden, and not raising children as a burden.
- Mandatory retirement: minute you turn 65, you were told you are too old to work. In 2006, the law
changed because people were complaining about discrimination
- With knowledge, comes wisdom, with this comes the power to make informed decisions
“informed consumer
x Bengtson, Rice and Johnson (1999) argued that there are two reasons for the lack of integration in
theories of gerontology. First there are three different aspects of age on which theories can focus:
characteristics of the aging population, the developmental or aging process, and the way in which
age is incorporated into the social structure. Second, gerontology has historically been a bottom up
discipline (facts > models > rarely a theory)
- Gender is one of the strongest predictors of life expectancy with women living longer than men.
- Gender and poverty: women outlive men and they end up being quite poor.
- They found employment in a labour related position, didn’t have necessary skills.
- At old age they complained about pension they were given because it wasnt enough for rent,
grocery, laundry.
Deviation Amplification Mechanisms (Maruyama):
- If change occurs, mechanisms typically exist for countering that change and returning the
organism to a steady state
- Ex. BP regulation, heart rate, respiratory rate, DNA repair
- However systems can and do change over time. Once a system is jarred out of homeostasis, then
deviation amplification mechanisms can take over, accelerating the change or imbalance
- Better framework for integrating theories of aging because it includes mechanisms for maintaining
homeostasis as well as for promoting change, both positive and negative
Biological Processes: useful to group these theories into genetic, molecular/cellular and system level
Genetic Theories
Deviation Amplification Theory
- is what genetic theories of aging are usually called because they specify what can go wrong
- Apoptosis (Programmed cell death)
o Existence of a death gene that regulates sudden cell death/apoptosis
o Genetic material turns on and off to perform different functions
Damage to these regular proteins may be one of the mechanisms for cancer, that
is uncontrolled cell proliferation
o Positive correlation between the life span of a species and the number of times a cell will
- Telomeres
o Specialized ends of DNA strands that help hold them together during mitosis
o DNA strands dont completely unwind during mitosis but are held together by caps at
their ends which do not replicate and are lost
o 100 base pairs/cell are lost during replication and when several thousand are lost, the cell
stops replicating and senesces (to reach maturity/grow old)
- Telomerase:
o Enzyme that restores telomeres
o Note: cancer cells have much longer telomeres and more active telomerase than normal
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