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March 19, 1982

Vitality and Aging: Implications of the Rectangular Curve

JAMA. 1982;247(11):1631. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03320360067042

It is becoming increasingly clear that some of the most important problems that society and the medical profession will face will concern repercussions of aging. Among the alleged consequences are doom and gloom scenarios, in one of which an increasingly old, dependent group will progressively constrict the standard of living of a younger, working population. In another, general hospitals will become geriatric hospitals, referring an increasingly large proportion of patients to satellite nursing homes.

Fries and Crapo have considered the various implications and projections of aging in this highly readable monograph. After reviewing various concepts related to prolongation of the human life span, they conclude that it is probably fixed, and as are the life spans of all other species, a biologic given. The best that can be expected (and we are already well embarked on this course) is the attainment by all persons of the maximum life span. It