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Special Article |

Biologic and Sociologic Changes Affecting Adaptation in Mid and Late Life

EWALD W. BUSSE, M.D., F.A.C.P.
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▸Requests for reprints should be addressed to Ewald W. Busse, M.D., Box 3003, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C. 27706


Durham, North Carolina


Ann Intern Med. 1971;75(1):115-120. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-75-1-115
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The behavioral and emotional changes that are frequently observed in middle and late life are primarily determined by an interaction of biologic changes and socioeconomic factors. Primary aging, a genetically determined series of biologic alterations, is usually observed as declines in physiologic efficiency. The human organism consists of three biologic components, two cellular and one noncellular. Consequently, there is not one uniform explanation for all of the various aging processes. Unfortunately, the so-called primary aging processes are not completely independent of the environment, thus making it difficult to distinguish them from disease and trauma. Changes within the nervous system are of particular importance. The observable changes, such as in the electroencephalogram with the focal abnormalities predominantly in the left temporal lobe, appear to be an interaction of several important variables. In many individuals mild to moderate hypertension appears to be a protective mechanism rather than a pathological one. Stress for the older person arises not only from excessive conflicts and stimuli but also from partial isolation and deprivation. From a socioeconomic viewpoint the elderly American can be identified as belonging to a deprived minority group.

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