Gerontology is a branch of sociology that studies aging and the problems—psychological, economic, and social—that arise in old age. Gerontology includes the field of geriatrics, the medical study of the biological process of aging and the treatment of illnesses of old age.
Since the days of the ancient Greeks, speculation about aging has gone hand in hand with the development of medicine as a science. During the 1800s, researchers began to study populations and social patterns of aging in a systematic fashion. During the 1930s, the International Association of Gerontology was organized. Over the next decade, governmental bodies sponsored conferences on aging, and by 1945 the Gerontological Society of America, Inc., was established in Washington, D.C.
In the United States in the late twentieth century, the median age of the total population has increased. On average there are more and more older people than younger ones in the country. Because of this increase, research in the field of gerontology has broadened.
The health and economic status among the elderly vary widely. Gerontologists have been researching the increased costs of health care paid by communities and the federal government for the elderly. Gerontologists also have studied how the aging of a particular member of a family affects the entire family, focusing on issues such as the interrelationships of different generations within a family or the impact of death on those different generations.
[ See also Aging and death ]