Explanation of Theories of Ageing

Sociological, Psychological and Biological theories

Disengagement Theory

Social scientists, Elaine Cumming and William Henry outlined the disengagement theory in the 1961book "Growing Old." It offers a bleak portrait of old age. Cumming and Henry's theory shows the major shift in interaction between seniors and society, when they realise the shortness of their life remaining. When the elderly person realises death is approaching, they begin to remove themselves consciously and subconsciously from social interactions. (health.howstuffworks; 1998-2015) This is was one of the first ageing theories to be developed by social scientists. They formulated their argument along nine postulates to explain why it is rational for individuals who know death is approaching to disengage. Postulate one is that everyone expects death and lose abilities are likely to deteriorate over time, resulting in elderly people to lose ties to others in their society. Postulate two is that they have fewer varieties of interaction so consequently it forms a circular or self perpetuating process. Postulate three is that men and women disengage differently as men are used to working and women are used to be staying at home. Men find it difficult to find new ways of socialising as women find it easy to socialize with family. Postulate four is developing less of an ego as knowledge and skills deteriorate. Elderly disengage because they have had to retire due to loss of skill. Postulate five is when the society is ready for the elder to disengage but the elder is not ready to leave the society so feel pushed out by society. Postulate six is when the elderly abandon central roles, which leads to drastic loss in social life. Postulate seven is when the elderly perceive their life span as decreasing and the individual loses ego energy. Postulate eight is when they no longer have relationships as they have disengaged from central roles. Lastly, postulate nine is the fact disengagement depends on culture as certain cultures disengage earlier than others. (boundless; 2015)

Activity Theory

This theory argues that staying mentally and physically active will increase happiness among older people. Activities that have meaningful purposes are recommended to help the elderly to replace lost life roles after retirement. Positive relationships between activity and life satisfaction. This theory reflects the functionalist perspective, as the purpose an individual develops in middle age is maintained in later years. The theory was developed by Robert J Havighurst who was a scholar of aging. (Gerontologist) It was created in 1961 and was originally developed to a response to the disengagement theory. He published his theory to directly refute the proposed disengagement theory, arguing that rather than withdrawing the elderly should remain active and social. However, critics argue that it overlooks inequalities in health that could prevent elders from having an active lifestyle. 50 years of gerontologist research suggests the activity model is more accurate than the disengagement theory. It engages elders both physically and mentally as it allows them to socialise with others, which increases feelings of self worth which is important for happiness and longevity. (boundless; 2015)

Disposable Soma Theory

In 1977, Thomas Kirkwood published his Disposable Soma Theory of ageing. His idea was that organisms only have a limited amount of energy, that has to be divided between reproductive activities and the maintenance of non reproductive aspects of the organism. (Soma) He believes ageing is the result of natural degrading processes that result in accumulation damage, however the damage can be repaired by the organism at the expense of reproductive effort. This theory links the apparent declining focus of natural selection after breeding age is reached with accumulation of damage, and suggests a relationship between reproductive and lifespan while avoiding conflict with the traditional evolutionary theory. (programmed-aging; 2012)

Gender Differences

Ageing is different for men and women , not just because the bodies respond differently but their psychology does as well. Women live longer than men, as men are seen to do more dangerous jobs and do not go to the doctors often, whereas a woman does and are more likely to be diagnosed with health problems earlier. However, more women experience problems associated with aging, such as health problems, sight and hearing loss as they live longer so more of the body becomes damaged opposed to a males. More women than men have arthritis so have restricted mobility, in a lot of pain and depend a lot on others. Women also suffer with osteoporosis where a women's bones fracture which can result in permanent damage which makes growing older difficult. (zeepedia; 2015)

Erikson's Stages of Ageing

Erikson's theory of ageing is a psychological theory of development which consider the impact of external factors such as parents and society on personality development from childhood to adulthood. Every person must pass through a series of 8 interrelated stages over the entire life cycle.

The first stage which is infancy (Trust vs Mistrust) relates to the major emphasis on the mother and father's nurturing ability in terms of visual contact and touch. The child will develop optimism, trust, confidence and security if properly cared for. If a child does not experience trust, they will develop insecurity, worthlessness and mistrust the world.

The next stage is toddler (Autonomy vs Shame) is when the children have the opportunity to build self esteem and autonomy when they begin to learn new skills and right from wrong. Children tend to be vulnerable due to low self esteem as they can not learn certain skills.

The third stage is preschooler (Initiative vs Guilt) this is the stage where children experience a desire to copy adults and use initiative to create play situations. Most significant relationship at this stage is with basic family.

School age child (Industry vs Inferiority) is when a child is capable of learning, creating and accomplishing new skills and knowledge as this is the social stage of development.

Adolescent (Identity vs Role Confusion) is the stage where development depends on what a person does and they must struggle to find their identity.

The next stage is young adult (Intimacy vs Isolation) this is the stage where people begin to seek love and companions so they can settle down and start a family.

Middle aged adult (Generative vs Stagnation) is when people's careers and work are the most important things. They take greater responsibilities and a lot more control in their lives. People also suffer major life shifts such as children leaving home.

The last stage is late adult (Integrity vs Despair) this is stage where it is believed that much of life is preparing for the middle adulthood stage and the last stage is for reflection. Some look back and feel integrity that is contentment and fulfilment. Others have a sense of despair reflecting upon their experiences and failures. Many fear death and struggle to find purpose upon their lives. (learning-theories; 2015)