The Theories of Ageing

Project Dementia and Elderly Care

Theories of Ageing

There are several theories of ageing. Each one has a different outlook on how and why individuals age. These theories of ageing fall into two categories which are Sociological/ Psychological and Biological. Below are the categories and which theories they contain.

Sociological/ Psychological

Disengagement Theory

The disengagement theory was first introduced by Cummings and Henry in the 1950's. This theory states that ageing is inevitable. It also suggests that when an individual begins to age they are to become withdrawn or disengaged. These suggested effects of ageing will then contribute to an individual having a significant decrease in the interaction they have with their local society.

Activity Theory

The activity theory was developed by Robert Havighurst in the 1960's. This theory suggests that before an individual has begun to age that they may take part in variety of activities, between work, hobbies and interests. In contrast to the disengagement theory, this theory states that as an individuals needs and abilities change, they adapt there current activities to suit this change.

Social Creation of Dependency

This theory focuses on how society affects the dependency of elderly individuals. This theory suggests that it is society that causes elderly individuals to become dependent on others. The reason that this happens is because society allows this to happen.

Continuity Theory

This theory was created by Havighurst and his co-workers and was created in relation to the disengagement theory. Whereas the disengagement theory states that individuals become withdrawn and disengaged. The continuity theory states that an individuals personality, attitudes and behaviours do not change as they age.

Erikson's Theory

Integrity vs Despair

Erikson's theory of ageing is made up of several stages. The stage called "Integrity vs Despair" specifically relates to older adults. This stage suggests that this is when an adult come to terms with their life and what is going to happen to them when and after they are ageing. Erikson suggests that in this stag older adults might feel anger/ despair towards decisions that have previously made and do not have the chance to change.


Disposable Soma Theory

This theory was created by Thomas Kirkwood and suggests that organisms have a limited amount of energy. The energy that each organism has is split between reproduction and maintenance/ repair of non-reproductive parts of the organism. This shows how the ageing process is natural and controlled by organisms within the body.

Genetically Programmed Theory

This theory suggests that every individual is programmed genetically to a certain age. This means that this theory does not believe that ageing and death are results of wear and tear that is caused by living. But rather that each individual is genetically programmed to a start to age and to die.

Gender Differences

This theory looks at the difference between men and women that can affect ageing. It also looks at the behaviour of individuals and any health conditions that contribute to the risk of dying. The information from this is then assessed so that the differences between men and women can be seen.