Factors and Theories of Ageing
What is old age
Activities and Socialising
Genetically Programmed Theory
We like to compare the human body to a machine. But this is not a very good comparison. Unlike a machine, which has only the parts it was built with, the human body continually repairs and replaces cells. Every seven years, 90 percent of the cells in your body are new. The human body is an amazing, open, dynamic system. To understand ageing, we have to forget about machines and think about living systems. Ageing, therefore, must be inherent in the organism and not simply a result of environmental factors or disease. So ageing and death, according to this theory, are not a result of wear and tear or exposure, but are a programmed, natural and necessary part of genetics. In short, we are programmed to age and die. (Mark Stibich, 2014).
Disposable Soma Theory
In 1977, a statistician named Thomas Kirkwood (now a biologist and professor of medicine at the University of Newcastle) published his disposable soma theory of ageing. Kirkwood’s 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). Ageing is the result of natural degrading processes that result in accumulation of damage but the damage can be repaired by the organism at the expense of reproductive effort. Because of the declining evolutionary impact of adverse events on older animals (Williams' hypothesis), a trade-off exists in which it does not make sense for an organism to invest effort (food energy resources) in maintenance (at the expense of reproductive activity) to result in living much beyond the initial breeding years. Kirkwood agreed with Williams' earlier position (antagonistic pleiotropy theory) that the adverse effects of ageing could not be considered negligible in evolutionary terms and that therefore ageing could not be explained by Medawar's mutation accumulation theory (1952), which considered the evolutionary effect of ageing to be negligible.
This theory also, in effect, 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.
The disposable soma theory is one of those based on the idea that the evolutionary value of additional life declines (but not to zero) following the age at which an organism achieves reproductive maturity. This concept in turn suggests that ageing might be the result of a trade-off between some beneficial quality (in this case reproduction) that happens to be rigidly linked to ageing. Rigid linkage means that the evolution process cannot work out a way to achieve the benefit without incurring the adverse side-effect (ageing). (Azinet LLC, 2012).
Continuing Erikson’s work was Robert peck's, a psychologist who theorized on the second half of life. He suggested that personality development in older adults faces three challenges.
The first challenge focuses on the definition of self versus a preoccupation with work roles. People who mainly defined themselves through their career must now redefine themselves in other ways. After retirement, older adults can struggle to find new meaning and structure while exploring other interests outside of work.
The second challenge is body transcendence versus body preoccupation. As we age, physical abilities decline. That period of adjustment can be difficult in which people must learn to cope and move beyond physical challenges. If one reaches body transcendence, a person has accepted the limitations of ageing and found happiness by focusing on mental and social activities. In turn, a senior’s preoccupation with their body will cause them unhappiness and hinder personality development.
The third challenge is similar to Erikson’s last stage of life. The elderly must come to terms with their approaching death. A person reaches “ego transcendence” if he or she believes their life has worth and their legacy will live on after death. By changing the focus to the well-being of others, one can avoid feeling like he or she lived a useless life (“ego preoccupation”).
Peck’s underlying theme is self-examination. Age and maturity brings change. The ability to adjust to life’s changes determines one’s happiness and development. While Peck’s theory focuses on older adults, people of all ages will reach full development if they can learn to accept the many twists and turns of life. (Corie, 2010).
His ideas though were greatly influenced by Freud, going along with Freud’s (1923) theory regarding the structure and topography of personality.
However, whereas Freud was an id psychologist, Erikson was an ego psychologist. He emphasized the role of culture and society and the conflicts that can take place within the ego itself, whereas Freud emphasized the conflict between the id and the super-ego.
According to Erikson, the ego develops as it successfully resolves crises that are distinctly social in nature. These involve establishing a sense of trust in others, developing a sense of identity in society, and helping the next generation prepare for the future.
Erikson extends on Freudian thoughts by focusing on the adaptive and creative characteristic of the ego, and expanding the notion of the stages of personality development to include the entire lifespan.
Erikson proposed a lifespan model of development, taking in five stages up to the age of 18 years and three further stages beyond, well into adulthood. Erikson suggests that there is still plenty of room for continued growth and development throughout one’s life. Erikson put a great deal of emphasis on the adolescent period, feeling it was a crucial stage for developing a person’s identity.
Like Freud and many others, Erik Erikson maintained that personality develops in a predetermined order, and builds upon each previous stage. This is called the epigenic principle.
The outcome of this 'maturation timetable' is a wide and integrated set of life skills and abilities that function together within the autonomous individual. However, instead of focusing on sexual development (like Freud), he was interested in how children socialize and how this affects their sense of self. (Saul Mcleod, 2013).
Social Creation of Dependency
Continuity Theory holds that, in making adaptive choices, middle-aged and older adults attempt to preserve and maintain existing internal and external structures; and they prefer to accomplish this objective by using strategies tied to their past experiences of themselves and their social world. Change is linked to the person's perceived past, producing continuity in inner psychological characteristics as well as in social behavior and in social circumstances. Continuity is thus a grand adaptive s
The activity theory of aging proposes that older adults are happiest when they stay active and maintain social interactions. These activities, especially when meaningful, help the elderly to replace lost life roles after retirement and, therefore, resist the social pressures that limit an older person's world. The theory assumes a positive relationship between activity and life satisfaction. Activity theory reflects the functionalist perspective that the equilibrium that an individual develops in middle age should be maintained in later years. The theory predicts that older adults that face role loss will substitute former roles with other alternatives. (Boundless, 2015).
Disengagement theory is a model originally proposed in 1961 by William Henry and Elaine Cumming, two social scientists interested in studying aging and the way interactions with other people change as people grow older. According to their theory, as people age, they tend to withdraw from society, and this can be mutual, with society being less likely to engage with and include older people. They argued that this was a consequence of people learning their limitations with age and making way for new generations of people to fill their roles. In modern gerontology, the study of aging and society, disengagement theory is controversial, and many people do not agree with it.
Under this theory, as people age, they tend to grow more fragile and their social circles shrink as they start to pull away and be less actively involved. Critics point out that often this disengagement is enforced, rather than voluntary; someone who needs to move to a nursing home, for example, experiences a curtailment of her social circle as her friends may not be able to visit, and may start to die, leaving her with fewer connections.
(Wise Geek, 2003).
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