Influences and theories of ageing

Factors which influence ageing

What factors are there?

There are many factors which influence the ageing process. Some factors increase the ageing process such as poor lifestyle and bad genetics, where as other factors such as a healthy diet and regular exercise could delay the ageing process. The four main factors which affect ageing are health and well-being, the demographic, physical affects and potential diseases.

Health and Well-being Factor

The environment is one factor that can influence the health and well being of an individual, and therefore affect the ageing process. This is because of living in poor conditions are likely to cause poor health and immunity, therefore at a higher risk of health issues. Also smoking could increase the process of ageing as wrinkles are likely to occur around the mouth sooner. Another factor which will affect health and well-being is diet, poor diet could influence ageing because your bones may be weaker as you may not have had enough calcium intake for example. Lack of exercise could influence ageing as if you do not use your muscles then they could become stiff and promote arthritis. Keeping active keeps all of your body active and running. Having children could also influence ageing as it requires a lot of energy to look after them and that could be quite stressful. Stress can cause the person to get grey hair earlier, it can also cause wrinkles, and even age the brain.

Another factor is improvements in healthcare, which can slow down the ageing process due to better medicines and treatments. There are also many health cosmetics which help to slow down the ageing process such as anti-wrinkle creams and even surgery. We have good healthcare which promotes, exercise, better diet and advice on how to have better health. There are also help with counselling and support with mental health issues which could be stressful and lead to bad health.

Social life can help the ageing process in both positive, and negative ways. A positive of socialising could be that the elderly person is more active due to activities with friends or family. Family and friends can also help the individuals mind to stay positive and a healthy mind can have a massive impact on a persons overall health, thus impacting their speed of ageing. On the other hand, if a persons friends and family are not active or giving encouragement, this can cause the elderly person to feel like a burden on the family. This is not good for an elderly person as it can cause depression and stress. This can also cause the person to age faster.

Demography Factor

Demography is the statistical study of births, deaths, income and diseases which demonstrates a change in the human population. This may affect ageing for a number of reasons. The first reason would be that women naturally live longer than men. It is unknown as to why, but in this shows that for a man to statistically live as long as a woman, he may need to make more or bigger changes in his lifestyle.

Income will affect the ageing process due to the fact that if an elderly person has a higher income then they will be able to to pay for specialised or privatised heath care. This is beneficial as the individual will be able to acquire the exact care they need, if not more than they need. A higher income will also mean that the individual will be able to purchase more expensive, healthier food. A better diet is proven to keep the body healthy and functioning at optimum levels, meaning that the individual will live a longer, healthier life. Income may also decrease if they have a poor pension so this will also affect the person in terms of food and activity which could have been keeping them fit and healthy.

Diseases are most likely to affect the individual negatively and cause their life span to be shortened. Mass diseases which will affect the demography of the country can be very harmful towards the elderly. This is due to their immune system not being as strong, so they are more likely to catch the disease and be unable to fight it, thus many elderly people will be at risk of a premature death.

Retirement may also affect the ageing process. A positive of retirement for an elderly person will be a slower pace of life. When a person retires they will be able to concentrate all of their time on the well being of themselves. Not having to work may also reduce stress, risk of injury, fatigue, and physical and emotional strain. However, after retirement it is likely that the individual will not do much exercise, and they may start to have a unhealthy diet. This will have negative effects on the body and it may start to function less effectively.

Physical Factor

As a person ages they naturally become less mobile due to muscular pain, which makes the bones and muscles become weaker. When mobility is affected, it causes the person to be less physically active which can also have effects on the cardiovascular system. Immobility and a decline in physical health can cause the person to age very quickly as their joints will become stiffer and more painful. Cardiovascular problems being experienced can also age the person as they will find simple tasks more difficult. This can be stressful for people who are used to be very mobile, and are no longer able to be.

Vision and hearing are also affected as a person ages and is affected mainly due to macular degeneration, which causes the central vision to be compromised. Glaucoma and cataract are also natural diseases which occur as a person ages and causes the vision to decrease. When vision is affected, this can also cause the person to become less mobile due to poor vision. They may also not being able to enjoy doing activities they used to enjoy, such as reading or even driving to get about. Hearing is affected as a person ages due to exposure to noises over the years, exposure to medications and chemicals, and also due to a hardening of the blood vessels that provide the ear with blood. Nerve cells also become damaged and don't work as well so hearing loss occurs.

Another example is cognitive development, this is affected due to brain cells becoming damaged or dying in the elderly. The most common sections of the brain which suffer in old age are memory and attention. The central nervous system can also become damaged which can cause a person to become more forgetful, have a smaller attention span, be less intelligent due to loss of knowledge, and their brain functioning and processing to be slower. This causes a person to be unable to make quick decisions and to be fully aware of their surrounds. It may make them feel frustrated and hopeless as things begin to deteriorate.


Diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis, and emphysema are all most commonly developed as a person ages. Alzheimer's disease affects the brain and how it functions. It affects memory, thinking, problem solving, and language. This change in the brain functioning can be very traumatic for an elderly person, and also very stressful. When a person has Alzheimer's, they become more reliant on other people due to their thinking being prohibited. The stress of the disease can also cause it to worsen, and cause other changes on the elderly person.

Emphysema is a disease which affects the lungs and breathing. It can be brought on prematurely due to smoking, however it often occurs in the later stages of life anyway. It is when the tissue around smaller airways are damaged and become inefficient when a person exhales, causing breathing to be more difficult and oxygen to not be transferred into the blood. Breathing problems can affect an individual physically and cause them to find it difficult to exercise.

Osteoporosis is a disease which affects the bones. It makes the bones more brittle and weaker causing them to break more easily. Osteoporosis can cause a persons mobility to be reduced to to it being painful. It can also cause an elderly person to become very anxious and worried about damaging their bones which can affect other parts of the ageing process.

Theories of Ageing

Disengagement Theory

The disengagement theory states that as a person ages, it is inevitable that they will become withdrawn and disengaged from society. This theory also suggests that there will be a decreased amount of interaction with the social system, however this is seen as a normal part of the process of ageing. The reason being, is because the old individual knows there are near to the end of their life, therefore they disengage from social roles that they used to engage in.

Activity Theory

The activity theory states that they believe that adults stay happier when they are active and maintain social interactions. It also believed that when an elderly person does activities, especially those that they enjoy, that it helps the elderly person to replace previous life roles, which they no longer are able to do, due to their age. This helps the older person to reject any social pressures which may limit the individual. The activity theory links closely to functionalism as it is believed that an inner equilibrium is achieved during middle age and should therefore be continued into later life and the last stages of life.

Genetic Theory

The Genetically Theory is the idea that ageing is due to the fact that all individuals are genetically programmed to age and deteriorate with age, eventually leading to death. This means that ageing is inevitable, thus furthering the inevitability of deterioration and death. It is believed that the 3 main systems which are involved in the ageing process are the endocrine system, the immune system, and genes. Over time these systems change and it is believed that these cause the signs and symptoms of ageing.

Disposable Soma Theory

The disposable soma theory is the idea that the evolutionary value of life decreases after an individual has reached reproductive maturity. This means that after a person has reached reproductive maturity and is in the later stages of life then they will not value their life as much as they once did. It is also believed that the body only has a certain amount of energy, and this energy has to be divided between reproductive activities, and the maintenance of non-reproductive elements of the individual. This means that as a person gets older, their energy for reproductive activities is sacrificed and used to help repair the body as it becomes old and damaged.