Senescence (//) or biological aging is the gradual deterioration of functional characteristics in living organisms. The word senescence can refer to either cellular senescence or to senescence of the whole organism. Organismal senescence involves an increase in death rates and/or a decrease in fecundity with increasing age, at least in the latter part of an organism's life cycle.
Senescence is the inevitable fate of almost all multicellular organisms with germ-soma separation, but it can be delayed. The discovery, in 1934, that calorie restriction can extend lifespan by 50% in rats, and the existence of species having negligible senescence and potentially immortal organisms such as Hydra, have motivated research into delaying senescence and thus age-related diseases. Rare human mutations can cause accelerated aging diseases.
Environmental factors may affect aging - for example, overexposure to ultraviolet radiation accelerates skin aging. Different parts of the body may age at different rates. Two organisms of the same species can also age at different rates, making biological aging and chronological aging distinct concepts.