Theories of ageing

Different theories that affect ageing

Disengagement theory-

Disengagement theory is a model originally proposed in 1961 by William Henry and Elaine Cumming. The theory is the process of individuals withdrawing and isolating from prior social interactions due to age. This can be mutual withdrawal or disengagement which is resulted from the decreased interaction between the ageing person and others in society. 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. The theory claims that it is natural and acceptable for older adults to withdraw from society.

Activity theory-

The activity theory focuses on the point that successful ageing occurs when older adults stay active and maintain social interactions. The theory was developed by Robert J. Havighurst as a response to the disengagement theory of ageing. It takes the view that the ageing process is delayed and the quality of life is enhanced when old people remain socially active. The theory insists that an individual's level of activity and social interaction has a positive effect on how they view themselves (self concept).

Genetic theory-

The genetic theory of ageing believes that lifespan is largely determined by the genes that are inherited. Some genes that are inherited can be beneficial, for example; if it is a gene that helps a person metabolize cholesterol which can reduce a person's risk of heart disease. These genes can increase an individual's lifespan. Evidence of this theory can be if an individual's parents have a long lifespan, they can live a longer life if they live the same lifestyle.


The continuity theory proposes that older adults maintain the same activities, behaviours, personalities, and relationships of the past. According to this theory, continuity in ageing is seen as a dynamic and evolutionary developmental process in which individuals grow, adapt, and change. Change is linked to the person's perceived past and inner characteristics. These characteristics remain constant over a lifetime and include elements, such as personality traits, ideas, and beliefs. It helps individuals make future decisions and maintain a positive self-concept and lifestyle because of their stable foundation in the past.

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