Gerontology – The Biology of Aging

Subject: Science
Type: Expository Essay
Pages: 5
Word count: 1389
Topics: Biology, Health, Medicine, Universal Healthcare

Health care researchers and professionals have carried out numerous studies for the sole purpose of enhancing care for the elderly through health and lifespan improvement strategies. According to Benefield and Holtzclaw (2014), health span encompasses the period in the life of an individual during which that person experiences general health and is exempted from any adverse or chronic sicknesses (Chatterji, Byles, Cutler, Seeman, & Verdes, 2015). On the other hand, lifespan connotes the length of time an individual exists before dying. Over the past 100 years, scholars have demonstarted strict concern on how to increase humanity’s lifespan by taking care of the elderly. Consequently, more people have been living long even at old age. Nevertheless, this trend has changed in recent decades and research on taking care of the elderly in society is increasingly giving more attention to the possibility of taking care of elderly people in ways that improve both their life and health span (Kaeberlein, Rabinovitch, & Martin, 2015). One thing has not, however, been established in scholarly circles: whether lifespan and health span go hand in hand when considering care to older individuals. Based on the admitted fact that both life and health spans have a direct relationship, I believe that the two should go hand in hand. Nevertheless, some scholars hold the opinion that life and health spans should be considered separately because changes in health are not as easy to characterize as alterations in lifespan (DuGoff, Canudas-Romo, Buttorff, Leff, & Anderson, 2014). This paper seeks to defend the perspective that health span and lifespan go hand in hand when considering providing care to older individuals.

Lifespan and health span go hand in hand and should be considered in such a manner because strategies for enhancing either of the two often compromise the acquisition of the other. For example, the caloric restriction (CR) technique, despite being used in increasing length of existence, has serious and adverse effects on a person’s health span especially at old age (Colman et al., 2014). Similarly, the technique of inactivating GH receptor or IGFI gene increases an individual’s health span but unfortunately leads to obesity (Laron, 2008). It has been proven that obesity is a cause of death because old people that are obese have more chances of heart attacks than those that do not. This simply means that without considering both life and health spans there can be no assurance that elderly care will produce the anticipated echelons of results gerontologists have sought to achieve. Further, Friedman, Kern, Hampson, and Duckworth (2014) argue that improving care for the elderly can only be achieved if researchers can find a balance between techniques used to elongate either of the two ‘spans’ in such a way that efforts made towards one do not cancel out achievement of the other. 

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Life and health spans should be considered jointly because it is impossible to increase the span of life for the elderly without ensuring that they can live healthy lives despite their age. On the other hand, studies indicate that any successful efforts to increase a person’s health span automatically enhance the possibility that the individual will live longer. According to Cohen-Mansfield, Skornick-Bouchbinder, and Brill (2017), the greatest challenge that people must face as they grow old is the health challenge. Such a direct relationship implies that care for the elderly would be incomplete if the emphasis is placed on one at the expense of the other. It is also important to note that the relationship between life and health span is structured in such a way that application of techniques to improve one always culminates in factors that directly affect the capacity of old people to achieve the other (Chang et al., 2011).  I hold that it does not make sense why research activities during the last century ignored health span concerns given the solidity of its relationship with the capacity of individuals to live longer. It, therefore, makes sense that results achieved when taking care of the elderly can be improved a great deal if the two concepts can go hand in hand.  

Increasing the number of years that an old person can live without ensuring that they can enjoy health would make life a burden. A study conducted by DuGoff et al. (2014) revealed that more than 47% of young people would rather die after 60 years of living than living a long life struggling with chronic diseases and constant pain. Such evidence suggests that while taking care of older adults, equal emphasis should be given to both health and lifespan improvement. Additionally, Friedman et al. (2014) argue that efforts towards improving humanity’s lifespan despite having made commendable steps have always been derailed because researchers have failed to recognize the supportive role of health span in achieving longevity of life. It is, therefore, logical to suggest that most people have ignored scholarly suggestions for achieving longevity in life because of the health woes they have witnessed as experienced by their elderly counterparts. This would explain why Chang et al. (2011) opined that unless healthcare concerns are considered as having an equal place in determining the quality of life for the elderly most people would continue to ignore usefully and well-researched life longevity tips. 

Without allowing considerations for health and lifespan to go hand in hand, the society is likely to have too many dependents and sick folks that are elderly. This will ultimately have a negative influence on the quality of life enjoyed by families and societies around the world. According to a recent research activity, under the prevalent global financial crisis middle and lower-class families are experiencing exponential problems because they must take care of sickly aged members (Kaeberlein et al., 2015). Benefield and Holtzclaw (2014) blame this phenomenon on the fact that previous efforts meant to assist in improving care for the elderly have focused on the longevity of life without paying attention to the impact of health in determining their productivity. Consequently, the quality of life has been on the decline since people as old as 55 years have been sickly and unable to contribute financially to their families and society. It is therefore imperative that future endeavors take care of the elderly consider health span and life span’s joint contributions towards humanity’s quality of life. Moreover, Kaeberlein, Rabinovitch, and Martin (2015) posit that although human life is precious society should not focus on longevity at the expense of quality of life because the same techniques that enhance life expectancy have equal capacity to improve health. It, therefore, follows that without considering health and life spans jointly the current generation will not only be compromising its quality of life but will also endanger subsequent generations. 

Human health and human life are equally important because if life is exalted above health loss of health will eventually be the cause of death. The contrary is also true. Exalting health above life would be madness because there is no health to protect and improve when a person dies. According to DuGoff et al. (2014), research efforts should seek to improve care for the elderly by considering both life and health spans so that strategies developed will focus on helping achieve healthy life extensions. 

Health and life spans go and should go hand in hand when considering providing care to older individuals. The research undertaken has not changed my perspective but has rather served to strengthen my opinion that both should be considered equally. For instance, the proven fact that those available techniques used to foster each separately often compromise achievement of the other is enough reason for me to continue endorsing my perspective. Additionally, lifespan and health span have a relationship characterized by the ability of each to improve chances of attaining the other. Unless future research adopts my point of view, older individuals despite enjoying added years will have a burdensome life because the constant pain will accompany longevity. Families will also be over-burdened and financially overstretched by financial expenditures due to increased sickly and unproductive dependents. More importantly, joint considerations of humanity’s life and health spans when taking care of the aged will help humanity place equal value on both as should be. Therefore, on the scale of academic opinions, my perspective still stands. When taking care of elderly individual’s health span and lifespan should go hand in hand. 

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  1. Benefield, L. E., & Holtzclaw, B. J. (2014). Aging in place: merging desire with reality. Nursing Clinics of North America,49(2), 123-131.
  2. Chang, S., Gholizadeh, L., Salamonson, Y., DiGiacomo, M., Betihavas, V., & Davidson, P. M. (2011). Healthspan or life span: The role of patient-reported outcomes in informing health policy. Health policy100(1), 96-104.
  3. Chatterji, S., Byles, J., Cutler, D., Seeman, T., & Verdes, E. (2015). Health, functioning, and disability in older adults—Present status and future implications. The Lancet385(9967), 563-575.
  4. Cohen-Mansfield, J., Skornick-Bouchbinder, M., & Brill, S. (2017). Trajectories of end of life: A systematic review. Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences.
  5. Colman, R. J., Beasley, T. M., Kemnitz, J. W., Johnson, S. C., Weindruch, R., & Anderson, R. M. (2014). Caloric restriction reduces age-related and all-cause mortality in rhesus monkeys. Nature communications, 5, 3557.    
  6. DuGoff, E. H., Canudas-Romo, V., Buttorff, C., Leff, B., & Anderson, G. F. (2014). Multiple chronic conditions and life expectancy: A life table analysis. Medical care52(8), 688-694.
  7. Friedman, H. S., Kern, M. L., Hampson, S. E., & Duckworth, A. L. (2014). A new life-span approach to conscientiousness and health: combining the pieces of the causal puzzle. Developmental psychology50(5), 1377.
  8. Kaeberlein, M., Rabinovitch, P. S., & Martin, G. M. (2015). Healthy aging: The ultimate preventative medicine. Science, 350(6265), 1191-1193.
  9. Laron, Z. (2008). The GH-IGF1 axis and longevity. The paradigm of IGF1 deficiency. Hormones-Athens7(1), 24.
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