As people get older, they are affected by life factors such as the death of a loved one or development of an illness. The effect of these life factors varies depending on the individual’s attitudes and beliefs. For example, someone with a positive outlook on life will maintain this attitude despite having serious physical health problems; while someone with a negative outlook on life will be depressed. However, different theorists have ideas on how people react to effects of ageing. THE SOCIAL DISENGAGEMENT THEORY
This theory states that older people need to withdraw from social contact with other people because of their reduced physical and the loss of social opportunities. It was developed by Cummings and Henry, two theorists. Cummings (1975) stated that as people get older, they experience a lesser need to meet the expectations of others and so, it was more natural for them to disengage from people. This theory has been accepted and supported by other theorists like Bromley (1974), who said that ‘although people try to fight the process of disengagement, it is bound to happen because as people get older they lose some of their physical and mental energy’. The ‘springboard’ view of life is a theory that when people are born, they only have to look forward to growing up; later on in life, they reach their full potential. But when they get older, they lose some of that potential and it’s all downhill from there.
The theory of disengagement collaborates with this theory because they both suggest that withdrawing from social activities is an inevitable part of the biological decline which is part of the natural ageing process. However, this is not always the same for everyone because people age differently. Many theorists and researchers today do not accept Cummings and Henry’s theory of disengagement because when it was introduced in 1961, there were no text messaging or internet and most people did not have access to a phone or a car. This would have resulted in an automatic disengagement because older people would not have the energy to meet up socially. But now, older people have the means and resources to communicate with each other. THE CONTINUITY THEORY
This theory states that it is important for older people to continue as the person they were in order to develop their self-confidence. It was developed by Atchley (1989). He thought that that individuals should keep on improving their lifestyle by continuing with their interests and keeping in touch with people in their past. Atchley believed that as people get older, they shouldn’t stop building up their self-esteem and developing their self-concept. It is important for them to remember who they are and they can be done by using memories from their past. Atchley’s theory also suggested that older individuals have particular needs when it comes to engaging in social and physical activities. Some individuals may choose to withdraw from these activities because they don’t see themselves partaking in them.
This could be because they believe they have earned the right to live a disengaged lifestyle and retire from society. Atchley believes it is possible for these people to disengage from social activities and not lose a sense of who they are. Other individuals may still continue on with a socially active lifestyle, visiting with their family and friends and continuing on with hobbies that they enjoy because they are not able to cope with being inactive. Atchley believes this people need to engage with other people in order to feel like their life is worthwhile. In conclusion, theories have been developed by different theorist about how people react to the ageing process. Some people may disengage from society while others continue to enjoy their social life.