Theories of Aging

Development through the life stages

Sociological / Psychological

Social Disengagement

Cumming and Henry put together a theory, that elderly people would naturally disengage from social interaction with others. As people get older they have a limited amount of opportunities when it comes to interaction with other individuals.The theory suggests that it is natural that the elderly tend to disengage from social interaction. However, the majority of the elderly tend to stay in contact with socialising such as friends and family. Older people can spend more time with the people that they are closer to, compared to younger people who make new friends. There are many different reasons as to why this can occur such as;

ILL- Health

Some individuals may struggle with their mobility, hearing or vision. This can cause difficulty to interact with others for example someone with hearing impairments, may not join in with activities as they can't hear as much as others.

Geographical mobility

When people retire, they tend to move away from their friends and families. Family members can move away from the elderly in order to get a better chance with employment and housing. This can mean that if they need assistance and care from informal carer this can be more of a struggle.


Retiring from work can result in less social interaction and result in the individual staying at home more. Colleagues that they used to work with can start to lose contact therefore the individual will not tend to leave the house as much as what they did when they were working.

ILL-Health of friends and relatives

If friends and family members are decreasing in their health such as mobility or other disabilities can reduce the amount of social interaction that the individual has.

Travel and technology

Some elderly people may not be able to drive or have a car, the internet or have a mobile phone. This can prevent the amount of opportunities that the individual can have such as meeting with friends or family members for lunch.

Activity theory

Bromley suggested that elderly people would need to have a role within society to prevent them from disengaging from society and losing contact with everyone. Elderly people will need to be educated with new facilities such as mobile phones. They will not understand how they work therefore with education they can become more involved with socialising with others and will not lose contact. The theory also suggests that it is important that they mental state of mind also remains active and the individual has an interest in life and enjoy who they are friends with. The theory suggests that if the individual loses too much mental and physical skills then this is called 'stagnation'.

Continuing theory

The continuing theory is that an older person can maintain to develop who they are as an individual. This.This theory suggests that there is an importance when the individual continues to be the person that they are. This can be continuing the hobbies that they have always been interested in and continue to interact with the people that they have always been in contact with. It is important that people maintain a positive self esteem and self concept of themselves and that memories from the past can play an important role in telling their life story. Each individual has different needs such as, some individuals may believe that it is their rights to retire and relax. Where as those who have an active engagement with their friends and family ,may not be able to continue to stay active and can result in them being disengaged.
When individuals retire some may not way to continue to appear within the 'public eye' as they may want to stay at home and relax. However, some individual may want to continue to have a high social status and play an important role within society. There may be many difficulties that an individual has face throughout their life time therefore this can be one out of many reasons as to why they would like to relax at home.


Gender Differences

With gender differences it is important that health behaviour and health conditions are similar and that these can put the individual at risk of dying. This can have different effects depending upon the individuals gender. For example menopause can cause more of a risk of many different problems that can occur. Being married can be linked with the individuals health, for example, if their marriage was happy then this can reflect a happy and healthy individual.

Disposable Soma theory

Kirkwood theory suggested that all organisms have a limited amount of energy that is available. Energy can be divided between reproductive activities and maintained of non reproductive side (soma). Ageing results in a natural degrading process that can cause damage. However, the damage can be repaired by reproduction, but will need to use the energy supply.This theory supports the natural selection process and suggests that the lifespan avoids to be interrupted the evolutionary mechanics theory. Depending upon the individual age depends upon the maturity of the reproductive organism.

How do the theories relate to ageing?

What controls the lifespan is unknown. Many theories fall into two main sectors, programmed and error theories.These both explain the process of ageing however neither of the two seem to be fully satisfying.All of the theories can interlock with each other but at the same time they can also effect one another. Changes to genes can depend on how the individual can repair and defend. Each theory relates to ageing in a different way. For example the disengagement theory suggests that as people start to get older then this can mean that they do not have a high social status compared to what they used to have and they can start to lose contact with those who they may have spoken to every day.