July 20, 2009

How Old is Old?

It's amazing, the things you can learn just browsing through a university catalog. Our own Cal State Northridge offers a minor in gerontology. One of the required courses is, of course, "Introduction to Gerontology". It covers some of the things you might expect: issues of health, economics, social roles, etc. Among other things, students have the opportunity to engage in volunteer work at "agencies for persons over 55". I'm almost certain that isn't a typo. Fifty-five. Quite seriously, I would have expected people to be at least 70 before falling into this category. But maybe I had gerontology confused with geriatrics. Geriatrics is an area of medicine dealing with elderly patients. I've always expected that to mean people older than 70. (And a lot of people in their 70's will tell you they aren't elderly yet.) Gerontology is the study of the aging process, and includes more than just medicine. Let's face it, we are all aging all the time. Even so, in this era when we are told that "50 is the new 30", I don't think there are very many fifty-five-year-olds who are eager to find junior gerontologists following them around and taking notes.

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