Ageing Theories

Explaining the disengagement and activity theory.

Activity theory. Developed by Robert Havighurst.

This theory suggests that some elderly people like to be active, being sociable and interacting with a range of people. They might show this by attending step classes for example, or elderly social groups within care homes.


It means that if older people will remain physically and mentally active and maintain social interactions their happiness will increase and this will also prevent them from disengagement.


This theory was made to believe that retiring from work is a good opportunity for older people to engage with the activities that they had not yet experienced. When they reach retirement they will have enough time to travel to places that they would like to visit and spend their money on whatever they like.

Disengagement theory. Developed by Elaine Cumming and Warren Earl Henry.

This theory is based on elderly people and their withdrawal to being social. This theory suggests that elderly people don't want to be social and don't want to interact with other people, preferring to be alone and independant.


This theory mainly states that as people grow older, they tend to withdraw from society and society withdraws from them.


As people age, they tend to grow more fragile and their social circles shrink as they start to pull away and are less actively involved in most activities. A lot of people point out that often this disengagement is enforced, rather than voluntary.

Comparing Disengagement and activity theory.

The disengagement theory:


The theory of disengagement has many strengths and weakness.


One of the strengths of the theory is that it is universal, which mean if happens all over the world. The fact that disengagement is universal also means that the theory is not bound by culture.


Another one of disengagement’s strengths is that it applies to both males and females equally.


A weakness: It does not explain those who are forced into disengagement due to health or mental issues.


Another weakness is that it does not explain the elderly who remain engaged.

The activity theory:


It is suggested that the activity theory is more accurate than the disengagement theory.


Not only is activity beneficial for the community, but it engages older adults (both physically and mentally) and allows them to socialize with others.


This increases feelings of self-worth and pleasure, which are important for happiness.

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