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February 18, 1974

Mental Illness in Later Life

Author Affiliations

Illinois Masonic Medical Center Chicago

JAMA. 1974;227(7):804. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230200062025

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Until very recently physicians have been educated in a system involving only the medically indigent. Elderly people—the product of a lifetime of overwork, undernutrition, and limited intellectual opportunity—have constituted a disproportionate number of these patients. They had chronic and advanced disease; their misunderstanding of clinical jargon caused them to be considered stupid, senile, or both. This has, logically enough, given the impression that age equals senility as well as noncurable disease. Even though the political milieu has changed and the elderly are now "consumers," there continues to be a widespread lack of general knowledge—or interest—in the sociopsychological and the physiological facts of later life. Can it be that physicians are unwilling or unable to accept professional defeat at the hands of Time? Or is it the discomforting intuition that even the physician ages? Nevertheless, medicine cannot properly ignore its responsibility to this segment of humankind by blanketing the problems of