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June 9, 2003

A Ripe Old Age

Arch Intern Med. 2003;163(11):1261-1262. doi:10.1001/archinte.163.11.1261

FORTUNATE, INDEED, are the octogenarians of today who have the wits and faculties to contend with life's demands. They are enjoying years beyond many of their birth cohort. None is deluded as to the inevitability of demise. Can they continue to function highly till death removes the challenge?

In an elegant study published in this issue of the ARCHIVES, Gill and his colleagues1 offer the answer. The higher level of functional capacity is ephemeral; it is to be whittled away. Month by month they will find themselves faced with days when they, not up to performing as usual, even feel the need to take to bed. Inexorably, activities of daily living, activities they always took for granted, become insurmountable challenges. They will come to take their place among the frail elderly. They will lean on canes by the graveside.