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Geriatric Medicine (Gerontology) Print E-mail

Dr. Kennedy Philosophers of antiquity had a lot to say about the illnesses of old age. Hippocrates noted conditions common in later life, and Aristotle offered a theory of aging based on loss of heat. Two thousand years passed before anything better was written on the subject. Then Sir Francis Bacon proposed a scientific program of epidemiologists to investigate the longevity of people living in different places and under different circumstances. He also wrote that the pursuit of knowledge demanded fresh examination of evidence, and this advice held sway for future investigators and even for his famous contemporary William Harvey.

Through the 1800s many famous doctors wrote about aging, but none offered any balm against it. The word "geriatrics" was invented by Ignatz Nascher, a Vienna-born immigrant to the United States in 1909. From that were derived "gerontology" — the study of aging. Nascher's initiative provided a stimulus for social and biological research on aging, but clinical geriatrics did not flourish in the United States. The American Geriatrics Society was founded in 1942, but as a thriving and influential medical specialty geriatric medicine was essentially a product of the British National Health Service.

Subsequent years brought the widespread recognition that geriatric skills could help hospitals run more efficiently. The first geriatricians, given responsibility only for patients in long stay hospitals, concentrated on upgrading the conditions in the hospital, improving morale of patients and staff, and developing rehabilitation facilities. This came to be known as the "traditional" model of geriatrics. Gradually geriatricians began to realize that institutional care would not be necessary for many people if more appropriate care were provided in the early stages of illness. Their voices have been heard and have had their effect on medical treatment models in middle age as well as old age. There is now a general recognition that people age at different rates and therefore that an individual patient should not be placed in a particular treatment setting merely because he or she is a certain age.

Geriatric medicine deals, of course, with the infirmities of old age. Some of these are determined by age itself, as the body slowly shuts down, but much of the illness of old age is, first of all, preventable, and second it is almost all treatable. There is now even a tiny glimmer of hope that ageing itself can be significantly slowed. Entymologists point out that there is no genetic difference between the queen bee and the worker bees, but the queen lives two years while the workers are out for count at six weeks. The only difference: the hive feeds the queen "royal jelly." No one else gets it.

Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski (of anti-neoplaston cancer treatment fame) has pointed out that the effect of the compounds in royal jelly are to suppress suppressor genes. Suppressor genes go about the business of shutting down other genes one by one until the life process itself is shut down and death ensues. Sigmund Freud proposed that humans are endowed with a "death instinct," implying that there is something uncontrollable in us which inevitably leads to our own deaths. It would appear that the biological markers of the death instinct are the suppressor genes. As for me, I take royal jelly extract twice daily even though I am just a regular worker bee. Let them come and stop me!

The information in this article is not meant to be medical advice.�Treatment for a medical condition should come at the recommendation of your personal physician.

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