Theories of Ageing

Becca Mason


Social disengagement is a theory that older people will need to withdraw from social contact with others. Elders will disengage because of reduced physical health and loss of social opportunities. Older people would have restricted opportunities. For example they may have ill health, which can include problems with hearing or vision, which therefore can make interaction with others greatly difficult. Older people may experience difficulty in hearing high frequency sounds. This is because the sensitivity of nerve cells in the inner ear may decrease, also there may be a loss of nerve cells which can result in hearing loss.

In addition to hearing loss, older people may suffer from vision loss too. This is because the ability of the eye to focus begins to weaken after the age of 45. By the age of 65 there may be little focusing power left, which results in reading small print more difficult. Glaucoma involves an increase of fluid pressure in the eyes, which can also affect the eyesight in later years. In addition to Glaucoma, older people can also suffer from macular degeneration. This is aged related, it is a painless eye condition that generally leads to the gradual loss of central vision. Although it can sometimes cause a rapid reduction in vision. This can make colours less vibrant to the reader, and can also affect individuals when speaking, because it may be difficult when recognizing faces. degeneration/Pages/Introduction.aspx

Another theory of ageing is the Activity Theory. This a theory which argues that older people need to stay mentally and socially active in order to limit the risks associated with disengagement. It was argued from Bromley in 1966, when he stated "elderly people need to be educated to make use of the facilities and encouraged to abandon apathetic attitudes and habits." He also argued it was important to remain mentally active and maintain an interest in life and enjoy the company of others. This theory helps the elderly to replace their lost life roles, after retirement and therefore, resist the social pressures that limit an older person's life. It also assumes a positive relationship between activity and life satisfaction.

Another theory is Disposable soma Theory. This theory suggests that because of the requirement for reproduction, natural selection favors a strategy that invests fewer resources in maintenance of somatic cells than are necessary for indefinite survival. Therefore, energy will be spent to ensure minimum damage to molecular structures such as DNA, and to ensure that the individual has good condition through its natural life expectancy where accidents are the predominant cause of death.

It is often said that woman live longer than men. It has been demonstrated about the differences between older men and woman. Despite the questionable scientific rigor behind many popular accounts of gender and sex, the role of sexual biology in physical ageing and of gender as social organizing principle across the human lifespan, make sex and gender differences significant in the lives of older individuals.

The interaction of brain and behavior makes it even more difficult to parse out sex-based differences from other social influences, such as men’s greater tendency to smoke and engage in aggressive and risky behavior, or women’s disproportionate labor in uncompensated domestic work and care giving. There are general average differences in male and female brains in terms of size and proportion of grey-to-white matter, but findings on the cognitive and behavioral correlates of this are conflicting and equivocal, and there is still a relative lack of consistent findings on the influence of aging on the physiology of the brain.

Therefore individuals will suffer from cognitive changes in later years. This is because as you age, it can involve a loss of nerve cells in the brain and a reduction in the ability of nerves to transmit electrical signals. Many older people report problems with memory recall. For example "where did i put my glasses?". It takes much longer to do things, as they may feel as they are slowing down. Slower response times and difficulty recalling recent memories are not a sign of Dementia. This is because Senile dementia is not part of a general ageing process, although the disease is more common among people who are over 85. (Health and social care level 3 book, page 165)

Therefore individuals may suffer from Alzheimer's Disease in later life, this is because Alzheimer's is caused by brain cell death. It is a neurodegenerative disease, which means there is progressive brain cell death that happens over a course of time. The total brain size shrinks with Alzheimer's and the tissue has progressively fewer nerve cells and connections.