Do People Really Die of Old Age?

Most people have a grandparent or other aging relative who suddenly “died of old age.” Technically speaking, however, old age isn't actually a cause of death in the same way that hypertension, diabetes, or injuries from a car accident can be. Regardless, the saying persists, but what do we mean when we say that someone died of old age? First, what constitutes old age, anyway? In the United States, anyone 65 or older is considered a “senior citizen” — a nice way of saying they’re “old.” In effect, old age can be anywhere from 65 to 100+. A person doesn’t die of old age, but many people die at an old age. As age advances, a cascade of adverse health events may occur, to which the person’s advanced age makes them more susceptible. For a lot of people, age makes it harder for organs to recover from stressful activities or events, but it isn't like as you get older your vital organs start declining to the point where one day the heart just stops beating. In other words, it’s not old age by itself that’s the culprit. So, what is the culprit, then? One of the big bummers is that the body is less able to maintain homeostasis over time. Homeostasis is the act of the body keeping things the same — temperature, blood pressure, blood sugar, water balance and blood flow. All of those things are important to living a healthy life. So while "dying of old age" is not a medical term, there is something to the fact that as people age, they do seem more accepting of the reality of death.