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June 1, 1994

Geriatric Medicine

Author Affiliations

Bowman Gray School of Medicine, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC

JAMA. 1994;271(21):1675-1677. doi:10.1001/jama.1994.03510450047026

The maintenance of optimal function and independence in old age is the maxim of geriatric medicine. As the number of elderly individuals increases, so will the prevalence of chronic disease, disability, and dependency. However, recent medical literature is replete with evidence that lifestyle and medical choices made early in life can have a profound effect on the prevalence and severity of disability and chronic disease in the geriatric population. Thus, to decrease the level of disability in elderly persons, physicians must focus attention on lifestyle choices made by younger adults today. The collective long-term goal for pediatric and adult patients might be to achieve a healthy, productive older age. This is the tenet for the practice of "preventive gerontology."1

A healthy old age, as articulated by Fries2 in 1980, results from "the compression of morbidity" in which disease and disability are prevented or postponed until near the end

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