Skip main navigation

Physiology of ageing

Dr. Williams-Johnson explores the physiology of aging and how ageing affects the immune, renal, and the gastrointestinal system.
image showing the hands of an elderly person clasped in their lap.
© The University of the West Indies

In the next four steps, we will explore the physiology of ageing and how ageing affects the following biological systems: the immune, renal, respiratory, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal systems. This will help you to understand some of the signs and symptoms of illness you may see in your elderly patients or relatives. Ageing should also be seen as a natural part of the human cycle and a stage that most will enter at some point in life. Therefore, understanding the physiology of ageing is important.

According to Flint and Tadi (2002), all the organs withing our bodies are involved in physiologic changes associated with ageing. “The loss of cell turnover, decreased function of mucous membranes, cachexia and skeletal muscle mass wasting, increased atherosclerotic decrease in vascular compliance, and cerebral atrophy eventually all contribute to the variety of changes we see in ageing” (Flint & Tadi 2002, para 10.).

Over to you!

What do you think are some of the effects that ageing would have on the body’s various physiological systems? Which effects have you seen in your own body or that of your family or friends? How might these effects be seen in the presentation of diseases?


Flint B, Tadi P. Physiology, Aging. [Updated 2022 Nov 20]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from:

© The University of the West Indies
This article is from the free online

How to Improve Care for the Elderly: Identifying Red Flags

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now