JUN 11, 2016 10:19 AM PDT

What Does it Mean to Grow Old?

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

We all accept that aging is a natural part of growing up. The human body is not built to last forever. In fact, we top out around 90 years of age. There are some incredible people who have surpassed this milestone, though these centenarians are few and rare. The record for the most years of age belongs to a Jeanne Calment from France who lived 122 years and 164 days. Calment's impressively lengthy lifespan warranted her the title of a supercentenarian.

Biological aging is a complex process that scientists are still trying to figure out. There are many factors to a person's lifespan, including their genetics, their epigenetics, and their environment. What we often see as signs of aging, such as sagging skin, grey hair, are outward manifestations of the internal aging of cells. This involves mutations that we inherently acquire as we live and grow. And over time, the stress on the DNA and cells cause chain reactions that affect the turnover of cells. The older we get, cellular renewal seems to become less frequent and less efficient, making us feel and look old.

But while scientists are working out the exact mechanics of aging, it's important to remember that growing old is actually a privilege that not everyone is given.
About the Author
I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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