Aging Theories

Week 2 Discussion on Aging Theories

This week we learned about varying aging theories. I will choose the activity theory and disengagement theory which I will compare and contrast the theories in relation to the role of caregiver. I will first describe each of these theories differently and then examine their similarities and differences. It is common knowledge that the level of activities decreases as age catches up. However, activity theory posits that activities like participation in faith-based organization and volunteering can assist the elderly to adjust and adapt to age appropriate replacement roles. This is based on Bengtson and Deliema (2016) argument that the more active an elder adult the more positive and stable self-concepts are which in turn results to higher morale and greater life satisfaction. Hence, successful aging is viewed as extension of middle age where the elderly aims at maintaining some roles in their later life. As a caregiver, my role in this theory would to ensure programs emphasizes and supports active integration and participation.

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The theory that followed the activity theory was disengagement theory which argues that the features of the social system plays a vital role for the older adults. In general, the older population either withdraws from the society or the society withdraws from the population (Brown, 2015). One core characteristic of the theory is that it is inevitable, but the older adult can attain self-concept through adjustment to theory past role (“Chapter 8: Social Theories of Aging”, nd). Unlike the activity theory where the elderly engages in roles that were previously engaging, the disengagement theory illustrates that there is a mutual withdrawal where the society encourages younger population to enter in to the labor market. 

One main similarity  between activity theory and disengagement theory is that they both are simplistic in applying one variable (withdrawal level/activity level) to explains the aspect of aging. The second similarity is that the two theories do not account for variability in environmental and personal factors. Another aspect that is common is that the .two theories are the baseline for all other aging theories. However,  as a caregiver, I prefer activity theory which unlike disengagement that encourages the elderly to reduce their activity level and withdrawal from the society, the activity theory encourages the aging population to become active. 

Another difference between the two theories is that disengagement views old age as a separate period unlike activity theory which views it as an extension of the middle age. One aspect I have learned is that the activity theory has a long-lasting impact unlike disengagement theory. Personally, I have applied the theory in Activities of Daily Living (ADL) framework to assess the physical fitness and ability of the older population to function independently. One information hat has grabbed my attention is the need to apply healthy and positive aspects of aging instead of decrement, decline and frailty to increase physical dependence of the older population.


Bengtson, V. L., & DeLiema, M. (2016). Theories of aging and social gerontology: Explaining how social factors influence well-being in later life. Gerontology: Changes, Challenges, and Solutions [2 volumes]: Changes, Challenges, and Solutions25.

Brown, C. A. (2015). Successful aging. The Encyclopedia of Adulthood and Aging, 1-5.

Chapter 8: SOCIAL THEORIES OF AGING. (2019). Retrieved from http://file:///C:/Users/user/Downloads/Social%20Theories%20of%20Aging_CH8.pdf

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