Theories of Ageing

Social Disengagement Theory

Defination of older age.

Definitions of old age are not consistent from the standpoints of biology, demography (conditions of mortality and morbidity), employment and retirement, and sociology. For statistical and public administrative purposes, however, old age is frequently defined as 60 or 65 years of age or older.

Disengagement Theory

Social Disengagement Theory

Social disengagement was developed by Elaine Cumming and Warren Earl Henry in 1961.

Disengagement theory argues that elderly people begin to disengage from their previous social roles as they realize that they will die in the near future.


The theory argues that as people get old they stop doing most things they used to do when they were young like socialising with other people and some of the reasons are that they lose contact with the people. It’s either they move away and go and live somewhere less crowded, somewhere quiet like the country and get away from the busy life because probably they would have retired so it will be difficult to keep contact with those friends where they used to live.

Most of the time they end up just having contact with only their family members and having quality time with them and not waste time with other people who are not family. The older you get, the less people you hang around with. Sometimes they lose contact with people because of illnesses such as Dementia and if someone is suffering from dementia its most likely that they won’t be able to remember you, they will call you with someone else’s name and this can be frustrating and as a result they can end up not visiting the person and losing those friends and that means less socialising.

Another reason why they disengage from things like socialising is because maybe the people who were their friends end up in nursing homes so they won’t be able to see each other as much as they used to when they lived in their own homes and nearby. Also in the Social disengagement theory it states that as people get older they get less familiar with technology such as phones, laptops, cars etc. So this makes it hard for them to keep in contact if the person lives far because they won’t have any way of contacting each other and if they can’t drive either, they won’t be able to visit the person.

Also as you get older, you may find it hard to walk and do other things and this can cause you to withdraw from the society because you can’t physically
Disengagement theory
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Continuity Theory

Continuity Theory

The continuity theory was proposed by Atchley in 1989. The theory suggests that older people continue with the same behaviours, activities, personalities and relationships from the past. This helps with their self-esteem and also the fact that they don’t lose themselves, who they have always been. The theory suggests that by maintaining these personalities, activities, behaviours etc. will help the person make decisions in the future. It attempts to maintain existing internal and external structures of how people continue as the person they have always been. The internal structure talks about the personality aspect of it, how a person’s personality doesn’t change, it usually remains constant throughout their life. It will also help them make certain decisions in the future based on their past. The external structure of the theory includes maintaining social roles and relationships to continue having sense of self-concept. It also suggests that some people might not be able to cope without certain things in their life like not having social roles or family and friends so they have to continue with those activities so that they have their self-esteem and self-concept.

Theory of Continuity
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