Free Resources for Students and Teachers of English as a Foreign Language in China - by Paul Sparks

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Paul Sparks, Sino-Canadian International College, Guangxi University, Online English Lesson Plans, Lesson Material and Ideas for Reading Lessons...



Reading Exercise: "Aging"

INSTRUCTIONS: Read the following article then answer the questions based on the article.

Everybody knows that older people are more likely to die than younger people are. We know it from experience.  We can also find the facts and figures from life insurance tables.  For example, in an advanced country with a well-fed population, only about 1 in every 1,000 children dies before his or her 12th year.  However, 1 in every 20 men aged 70 will die before his 71st birthday.

The risk we run of dying at any particular age is called the force of mortality for that age.  The force of mortality has been carefully worked out for all ages of people because this is what life insurance rates are based on.  Naturally, it grows steadily greater with age.  The reason that few people live more than 100 years, and never exceed 200 years, is called aging.

We can recognize aging by the grey hair, weakened muscles, wrinkled skin, loss of hearing and other signs that it produces.  It also has a more important effect on us, because it reduces our power of staying well and of getting better if we fall ill.  A common cold may not be serious for a young person, but it can lead to death in an old person.  This loss of the power to stay healthy happens at about the same rate in everybody.

When we are young, our bodies can repair themselves.  Unfortunately, as we get older, we tend to be like an old car - more and more things start to go wrong.  The car goes into the garage to be checked by the mechanic while we spend more time in clinics and hospitals with doctors.  There comes a time when it is very difficult for us to get repaired and we cannot stay alive any more.  This is the end of our life span.

Most people from the same background and culture have a similar life span.  In countries where there is enough food and medical services are good, the most common life span is between 70 and 80 years.  However, where there is hunger and poor medical care, death amongst babies, called infant mortality, is high, and the average life span may only be 40 to 45 years.  Some people, especially if they come from families which live for a long time, can live 20 years more than the average.  For example, in the United States, 3 out of every 100 babies will live to the age of 90 and about 1 in every 1,000 will live to be 100.

Women, for reasons not clearly understood, live longer than men on average.  This could be because their genetic make-up (two X chromosomes instead of one) gives them a better chance.  It is also possible that the higher hormone levels in women help them to live longer.

Multiple Choice Questions. Circle the correct answer:

1.    In a group of 20 men who are 70 years old, how many will probably die that year?


2.    What is the normal life span in advanced countries?

40 - 45 years
70 - 80 years

3.    What may the average life span be in poor countries?

70 - 80 years
40 - 45 years

4.    Out of a hundred American babies, how many will live to 90?


5.    What is another name for the risk of dying at a particular age?

infant mortality
force of mortality

6.    A car goes to a garage to get repaired.  Where do people go?

hospitals and clinics
insurance companies

7.    What is another name for death amongst babies?

the force of mortality
infant mortality

8.    How many X chromosomes have women got?


9.    Where can you find information about how long people live?

in advanced countries
life insurance tables

10.    Why doesn't anybody live more than 200 years?

common colds

11.    Give TWO reasons why women may live longer than men.

genetic make-up and having two X chromosomes instead of one
genetic make-up and higher hormonal levels

12.    More children die in poor countries than in rich ones.  Is this statement true or false?

13.    Grey hair and weak muscles are signs of age.  Is this statement true or false?

14.    A common cold is dangerous for young and old people.

15.    The average life span in poor countries is 40 - 80 years.  Is this statement true or false?

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