Task 3 - Theories of ageing.

By Aisha Small

What is old age?

When it comes to describing old age, everyone will interpret it differently. However there are certain aspects it covers when defining what old age actually is. There are stages that are discovered by Erikson; people get frail when they get older, there are certain end of life stages, individual perspectives, attitudes, ageism, government perspective and the delivery of free services such as dental, prescriptions and eye tests.

Theories of ageing.

There are two types of ageing theories.


  1. Disengagement theory
  2. Activity theory
  3. Social creation of dependency.


  1. Disposable soma theory
  2. Genetically programmed theory
  3. Gender differences.

Sociological & Psychological types:

Disengagement theory.

This theory was developed by Cummings and Henry in the late 1950's for they believed that ageing is inevitable, a mutual withdrawal and disengagement. Therefore this results in decreased interactions between the ageing person and others who are in the social system he or she belongs to.

Activity Theory.

This theory was developed by Robert Havighurst in the 1960's. This theory was to support the maintenance of regular activities, roles and social pursuits that anybody had. It was them that believed people who reach an optimal age, are those who stay active. Therefore as roles change, the individual will find substitution activities for these roles.

Social creation of dependency.

This theory was developed by Sandra Ball-Rokeach and Melvin DeFleur in 1976, however this theory merges out the communication discipline. It combines perspectives from psychology and the social theory. With this theory it combines elements of uses and gratifications research with those media effect traditions. A contextualist philosophy is incorporated into the theory, which features traditional concerns with the content of media messages and there effects on audiences. Research generated by this model tends to be more descriptive than explanatory or predictive.

Biological types.

Disposable soma theory.

This theory was developed by Thomas Kirkwood in 1977, his idea was that organisms only have a limited amount of energy that has to be divided between reproductive activities and the maintenance of the non-reproductive aspects of the organism (soma). Aging is the result of natural degrading processes that result in accumulation of damage, however the damage can be repaired by the organism at the expense of the reproductive effort.

This theory combines the apparent declining force of natural selection after breeding age is reached with accumulation of damage, and suggests a relationship between reproduction and life span while avoiding conflict with traditional evolutionary mechanics theory.

Genetically programmed theory.

When it comes to this theory it is believed that ageing and death are not a result of wear and tear or exposure but are more looked at to be programmed, and are a natural part of genetics.

In short this means that we are programmed to age and die.

Gender differences.

When it comes to gender differences it assesses the relative importance of health, behavior and baseline health conditions in predicting the risk of dying. After this it looks at their effects and how they differ between elderly men and women.

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