What is the origin of the word geriatrics?
Greek is where the word “geriatrics” first appeared. Its root terms in Greek are “geron” which means “old man” and “iatros” which means “physician” or “healer.” The American doctor known as the “father of geriatrics” Dr. Ignatz Nascher first used the phrase in the early 20th century.
However, the idea of geriatrics predates the name itself. Societies have understood the special healthcare requirements of senior citizens throughout history and have created a number of strategies to meet those needs. Medicine for the elderly was practised by physicians in ancient civilizations including Egypt, China, and India. These pioneering medical professionals studied age-related changes, created treatments for widespread illnesses, and emphasised the significance of lifestyle adjustments for preserving health as people age.
The founder of medicine and philosopher Hippocrates recognised the importance of age-related health issues in ancient Greece. He discussed the course of human development and emphasised the value of a healthy diet, exercise and social interaction for ageing well. However, the field of geriatrics didn’t really start to take shape until much later.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as medical research and healthcare advanced, a greater knowledge of the ageing process and age-related disorders arose, giving rise to the contemporary specialty of geriatrics. The promotion of geriatrics as a separate medical specialty was greatly helped by Dr. Ignatz Nascher, a doctor who worked in New York City.
Dr. Nascher supported a comprehensive strategy that took into account the social, emotional, and physical effects of ageing and recognised the need for specialised care for older persons. He coined the word “geriatrics” in 1909 to refer to this young branch of medicine. Nascher’s research centred on identifying and treating the numerous health problems that older people face, including as chronic illnesses, functional decline, and mental health disorders.
Medical experts started to create specialised training programmes and institutes devoted to the treatment of elderly persons as geriatrics gained popularity. Geriatrics became a recognised medical speciality in 1938 when the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City opened the nation’s first geriatric clinic.
Throughout the 20th century, geriatrics developed and expanded as a result of scientific breakthroughs, demographic upheavals, and cultural changes. The need for specialised geriatric care grew as the population aged. As a result, there are now more geriatric clinics, research facilities, and academic programmes than ever before.
The global phenomenon of population ageing has increased the popularity of the subject of geriatrics. Healthcare systems are faced with new obstacles in delivering efficient and all-encompassing care for senior citizens as life expectancy keeps increasing. With an emphasis on the special requirements of older people, such as age-related illnesses, various chronic disorders, polypharmacy (the use of many drugs), and geriatric syndromes including falls, delirium and frailty, geriatric medicine has emerged as a crucial part of healthcare systems.
With the growth of specialised care settings like geriatric rehabilitation centres, long-term care facilities, and home healthcare services, geriatric care has also gone outside hospital-based clinics. To meet the many needs of older persons, interdisciplinary teams made up of geriatricians, geriatric nurses, social workers, physical therapists, and other healthcare professionals collaborate.
The name “geriatrics” is derived from the Greek words “geron,” which means “old man,” and “iatros,” which means “physician.” Although the idea of geriatric care dates back to ancient civilizations, Dr. Ignatz Nascher is credited with introducing the name and promoting geriatrics as a distinct medical specialty in the early 20th century. Since that time, geriatrics has gained relevance and notoriety by addressing the special healthcare requirements of senior citizens and promoting the general wellbeing of ageing populations across the world.