Gerontology: Aging and how it affects our bodies

Each of us ages – with each passing day beyond the age of 30, our physical reserves slowly decrease, until at some point it is no longer so easy to maintain all organ functions: the first limitations appear.

What is the science of aging?

In  gerontology,  the science of aging, research is carried out into current problems of old people. Gerontology is still a very young branch of science – the first German chair was only established in 1986 in Heidelberg. Since many problems of aging have to be looked at from different perspectives, different disciplines belong to gerontology:

  • The best known is certainly  geriatrics,  which takes care of diseases in old age.
  • There is also  gerontopsychology  and  psychiatry,  which researches and treats mental illnesses in old age.
  • There is also  social gerontology  and  gerontosociology,  which primarily deal with social and sociological aspects.
  • Another specialty is the  care of the elderly,  which supports older people with its institutions in a very pragmatic way.

But other disciplines such as demography, biogerontology, psychotherapy and senior citizen management are also represented in the four areas of “experimental gerontology”, “geriatric medicine”, “social and behavioral gerontology” and “social gerontology and work with the elderly”, which are taught at the universities.

Why do we need gerontology?

People in Germany and Europe are getting older and the population figures are changing in such a way that there are more and more older people and fewer and fewer young people. This circumstance – i.e. more and more old people who are also getting older – is called  double aging  . The group aged 80+ is growing the fastest – by 2030 around 6% of the population will be older than 80 years.

The increase in older population groups presents our society with various tasks:

  • How should working life be shaped in the future?
  • How should fewer and fewer working people finance the pensions for more and more pensioners?
  • Does the rise of a senior economy represent a growing industry?
  • Can volunteering in honorary posts also compensate for unemployment among older people in terms of recognition?
  • How do apartments, offices, objects of everyday life have to be designed so that they fit this growing population group?

Regular senior reports

Gerontology tries to find answers to these questions – this is particularly reflected in the so-called reports on the elderly, which in Germany have had to be submitted by every legislative period since 1992 (the 5th report on the elderly is currently being processed).

In them, the current situation of older people is presented by independent experts, and the government reacts to these presentations with a statement or concrete decisions.


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