Theories of ageing

Hannah Alice Lumbar


As everyone gets older, they are more likely to be able to experience a variety of illnesses. As a result of individuals gaining illnesses and becoming more reliable and dependent upon services within society, this significantly increases the population of those who are living and relying on benefits being provided for them, as being compared to the older proportion within the population. A longer lifespan of women within society means that there are consequently higher rates off potential illness associated with women.

Social disengagement

Disengagement is a theory in which older individuals will need to withdraw themselves from social contact with other individuals, this is a natural process. Older individuals will disengage because of reduced physical health and also will result in loss of social opportunities.

In the year of 1961 two theorists by the names of Cumming and Henry put forward a disengagement theory that older individuals would eventually naturally withdraw themselves from social involvement as they grow older. A disadvantage of this theory is that older individuals are more likely to be very restricted to opportunities to interact with others in the community. A few issues that limit social interaction is the following: ill-health which is when poor mobility or older people with sensory impalement find it difficult to interact with others. Travel and technology is a obstacle for older people because some individuals do not have the access to a car, the internet or even a mobile phone which consequently means that social contact is limited which can also be an emergency issue.

Cumming argued that older individuals would consequently experience a decline in social contact due to the fact that as individuals get older they then become more 'individual' than they where. Cumming also argued that it was healthy that older individuals would withdraw themselves from social interactions.

Bromley 1974 also argued that 'the disengagement of some sort of bound is going to come as simply because older people have the physical or the mental resources they had when they were younger'. This theory suggests that by consequently loosing social contact with individuals in society will mean that there is a consequence of biological decline, this is because older people withdrawing themselves from others is a natural response.

Another author by the name of Zimbardo (1992) discussed that older people do remain socially involved within their families and friends because older people do rely on the help from friends and family as they become older and may fall ill it is usually family who are the first ones there. It is also shown that older individuals remain friends with ones they have had for a very long time, they don't have time to go out and make new friends. Nowadays many theorists do not agree with the disengagement theory, and also it is important to also remember that during the year of 1961 there were no internet or mobile phones, even cars so technology has changed dramatically.

Activity theory

The activity theory which argues that older individuals need to be able to stay mentally and also socially active in order to limit the risks associated with disengagement. During the 1966 Bromley had argued that older individuals should be disengaged but on the other hand older people also need to continue to be 'active' this is to prevent the withdraw from social contact with others from continuing and going to far. Bromley suggested that '' it is not sufficient merely to provide faculties for older individuals. They need to be educated to make sure they use them and are also encouraged to let go of apathetic attitudes as well as fixed habits'. This author also said that it was equally important to be able to remain mentally active and older people should also try to keep an interest in life as well as appreciate the company of other individuals within the society. Consequently if an older person had too much disengagement then as a result of this it would mean that there could be a potential decrease or even loss of mental and physical skills that the older individual once had.

Continuity theory

This theory suggests that older people will generally be able to maintain a sense of who they are and also be able to continue adapting the self concept they had developed earlier in their life.

The continuity theory is argued by an author Atchley (1989) in which was able to express how important it was to continue as the individual that you always have been. The majority of people this requires them to be able to keep involved within activities and interests, lifestyle and social contact with friends, family etc. The most important aspect of this theory is that individuals should be able to develop their sense of self-esteem and concept within themselves.

The continuity theory also makes suggestions that people will also require different needs when it comes to activity. On one hand some individuals may feel that they would need to withdraw themselves from the social and physical activity in order to retire and dedicate to a disengaged life style. Where as other older people have lived with a more active lifestyle and want to continue as it makes them feel as if they have something to achieve and make them feel worthwhile as well as social contact, these individuals would most likely reject to disengagement because they may feel that their self esteem would decrease and they may start to feel as if they are loosing the sense of who they are.