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Some Little-Known Classics of Old-Age Medicine

Frederic D. Zeman, MD
JAMA. 1967;200(1):44-46. doi:10.1001/jama.1967.03120140102017.
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These familiar words of the psalmist we usually regard in a figurative way, but they assume far greater significance if taken literally. The author definitely expressed the plaint of the older person in a nomadic culture who, when he was no longer useful, was certain to be left behind to die in solitary agony. Only with the growth of villages and planned agriculture, resulting in an adequate food supply, did it become possible to develop the compassionate protective attitudes of the Judeo-Christian ethic. Every generation of physicians has met, to the best of its limited understanding, the problems of increasing years and their associated disabilities. I would like to discuss a few of the littleknown classic works on old age medicine.

Gabriele Zerbi (1468-1505).—  More than 20 years ago I encountered a reference to the Gerontocomia of Zerbi, a fascinating volume on the care of the aged, written by a


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