The Nature of Senescence

Aging has been described as ''a series of time-related processes that ultimately bring life to a close,'' that is, a process of physiological 'wearing out.' Physiology is the basis of human functionality, as well as of our susceptibility to disease. The late gerontologist, Nathan Shock, established the principle of a progressive decline in physiological reserves as a consequence of 'normal' aging, recognizing that the rate of decline differed markedly among the body's organ systems. In fact, one cannot really separate the concept of the physiology of older persons from the physiology of the aging process itself. Similarly, the high prevalence of chronic diseases in older persons challenges our ability to discriminate 'normative' senescence from pathophys-iological changes.

The origin of physiological changes in older persons begins within the domain of cellular senescence. The extension to tissue and organ levels originates in what we interpret to be the physiological changes of human aging. Major advances in our cellular and molecular understanding of basic aging processes have been made in recent years.

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