Gerontology (/ˌdʒɛrənˈtɒlədʒi/ JERR-ən-TOL-ə-jee) is the study of the social, cultural, psychological, cognitive, and biological aspects of aging. The word was coined by Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov in 1903, from the Greek γέρων (gérōn), meaning "old man", and -λογία (-logía), meaning "study of". The field is distinguished from geriatrics, which is the branch of medicine that specializes in the treatment of existing disease in older adults. Gerontologists include researchers and practitioners in the fields of biology, nursing, medicine, criminology, dentistry, social work, physical and occupational therapy, psychology, psychiatry, sociology, economics, political science, architecture, geography, pharmacy, public health, housing, and anthropology.
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The multidisciplinary nature of gerontology means that there are a number of sub-fields which overlap with gerontology. There are policy issues, for example, involved in government planning and the operation of nursing homes, investigating the effects of an aging population on society, and the design of residential spaces for older people that facilitate the development of a sense of place or home. Dr. Lawton, a behavioral psychologist at the Philadelphia Geriatric Center, was among the first to recognize the need for living spaces designed to accommodate the elderly, especially those with Alzheimer's disease. As an academic discipline the field is relatively new. The USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology created the first PhD, master's and bachelor's degree programs in gerontology in 1975.