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Galapagos tortoises, field mice, average life expectancy, Fruit flies, gerontology

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Aging, irreversible biological changes that occur in all living things with the passage of time, eventually resulting in death. Although all organisms age, rates of aging vary considerably. Fruit flies, for example, are born, grow old, and die in 30 or 40 days, while field mice have a life span of about three years. Dolphins may live to age 25, elephants to age 50, and Galapagos tortoises to 100. These life spans pale in comparison to those of some species of giant sequoia trees, which live hundreds of years.

Among humans, the effects of aging vary from one individual to another. The average life expectancy for Americans is around 75 years, almost twice what it was in the early 1900s. Although some people never reach this age, and others are beset with illnesses if they do, more and more people are living healthy lives well into their 90s and older. The study of the different aging processes that occur among individuals and the factors that cause these changes is known as gerontology. Geriatrics is a medical specialty concerned with the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases in the elderly.


Roush, Robert E., A.A., B.S., M.Ed., Ed.D., M.P.H.

President, National Association of Geriatic Education Centers. Professor, Huffington Center on Aging, Baylor College of Medicine.

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