Do People Really Die of “Old Age”?

We’ve all heard about people who die of “old age.” In fact, for many, that is our wish — to live long and healthy lives and, when our time eventually comes, to pass away gracefully in the swan song of old age.

But a new (and very funny) article from Medical Daily pokes some very scientific holes in our not-so-scientific fantasy of the “old age death.” According to columnist Chris Weller, there just isn’t any truth to the idea.

Weller says that we all ultimately die of something. The older we get, the more susceptible we become to routine illness. Death by “old age” really just means that our bodies have broken down to the point that some other cause of death is able to take hold.

“The idea that people die of pure aging, without pathology, is nuts,” says David Gems, deputy director at the Institute of Healthy Aging. (Weller points out that Gems defines “pathology” as any disease, condition, or ailment.)

But if that idea feels discomforting or depressing, it shouldn’t.

On the contrary, the fact that we as humans cannot be killed by “old age” itself offers hope — we may be able to find ways to strengthen the aging body against pathology in order to prolong healthy life beyond its current outer limits. In fact, Weller reports that research along those lines is already underway.

In the meantime, we can also take comfort in knowing that old age is not some malady to be fought against or feared. Rather, it is yet another stage in life — one that can be healthy, long, and thoroughly enjoyable.

Even after eight or nine dozen of them, then, birthdays are still causes for celebration.