A new look at old age

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Ted Johnson, MD:
A new look at old age
March 3, 2010

Geriatrician Ted Johnson, MD, MPH, and his colleagues study a variety of health issues related to aging. They’re now looking at ways to block the intersection between accidental falls and frailty. Frailty includes weight loss, difficulty walking, low energy, and reduced strength.

The notion of frailty has become a hot topic, says Johnson. Some are seeing evidence that there are certain genes controlling how people age or the rate at which they age, says Johnson. He says, too, researchers are seeing evidence that markers of inflammation might help explain why one person develops weakness whereas another person may not.

“You might see someone who is 85 and very fit and full of vigor, and you might run into people who are in the late 60s who seem quite old and look quite old,” says Johnson.

What’s more, accidental falls become quite common as people age. Johnson estimates that one-third of those older than 70 will suffer an accidental fall within the coming year. “Falls are very traumatizing,” says Johnson. “They’re associated with fractures, and hip fractures in particular may result in adverse outcomes. Falls are truly one of those things that can affect someone’s independence.”

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