Gerontology (from the Greek γέρων, geron, "old man" and -λογία, -logia, "study of"; coined by Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov in 1903) is the study of the social, cultural, psychological, cognitive, and biological aspects of aging. It is distinguished from geriatrics, which is the branch of medicine that specializes in the treatment of existing disease in older adults. Gerontologists include researchers and practitioners in the fields of biology, nursing, medicine, criminology, dentistry, social work, physical and occupational therapy, psychology, psychiatry, sociology, economics, political science, architecture, geography, pharmacy, public health, housing, and anthropology.
Gerontology encompasses the following:
- studying physical, mental, and social changes in people as they age
- investigating the biological aging process itself including aging's causes, effects and mechanisms (biogerontology)
- investigating the social and psycho-social impacts of aging (sociogerontology)
- investigating the psychological effects on aging (psychogerontology)
- investigating the interface of biological aging with aging-related diseases (geroscience)
- investigating the effects of an ageing population on society (demography)
- exploring the relationship between the aging and their environment (environmental gerontology)
- applying this knowledge to policies and programs, including the macroscopic (for example, government planning) and microscopic (for example, running a nursing home) perspectives.
The multidisciplinary nature of gerontology means that there are a number of sub-fields, as well as associated fields such as physiology, anthropology, social work, public health, psychology and sociology that overlap with gerontology.