Understanding Ageing: Biological And Social Constructions

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Publication details

Title of host publicationThe New Sciences of Ageing
DatePublished - 2014
Pages25-76
PublisherPolity Press
Place of PublicationBristol
EditorsAlan Walker
Original languageEnglish
ISBN (Print)978-1447314677

Abstract

In this chapter, we discuss how social and biological studies of ageing
can converge to provide a meaningful framework for progress in both
understanding ageing and dealing with it in a positive manner. We start
by discussing the meaning of the term ‘ageing’ and how it is in part
defined by social context, and then, how psychosocial factors have an
impact on both perception and the biological reality of ageing. From
a theoretical perspective, we assess how ageing might have evolved,
and how it is measured. The biological impacts of ageing are then
described, moving from individual cells through tissues to major organ
systems (immune, cardiovascular and nervous systems).
What causes individual cells of the body to age is dealt with at both
a cellular and molecular level, and we further discuss how studies of
both extremely long-lived and short-lived humans have contributed
significantly not only to our understanding of the biological processes
of ageing, but also to the possibility of developing therapies to deal
with the problems that cause greatest loss of quality of life in older age.
We end by assessing the ethical case for intervening in those biological
processes underpinning the development of those illnesses that so
undermine health in later life.

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