Different theories of ageing

August 15, 2017 Sociology

One of the most important accomplishments of modern society is the rise in human length of service. Since 1800, life anticipation at birth has bit by bit increased over the subsequent two centuries, from 40 old ages to about 80 old ages ( Bongaarts 2006 ) . These singular alterations in human biological science have produced challenges for scientists, physicians, sociologists and policy-makers. Over the last century, the turning realisation of the altering human ecology of ageing has provoked sociological and biological research to explicate the effects of these alterations on society. The purpose of this essay is to discourse how different theories of ageing have tried to near older people and their fortunes.

The survey of ageing as societal geriatrics took root in the late fortiess, at a clip of great societal and demographic alteration. After World War 2, society in Europe and the United States of America ( USA ) had palpably changed, motivating sociological research into alterations in ageing amongst other sociological phenomena ( Vincent 1996 ) . The modern political and economic environment viewed ripening, for the first clip, as a ‘problem ‘ for society ( Jones, 1993 ) .

This position of ripening was at odds with the predominating functionalist sociological theories of the clip. Talcott Parsons was a cardinal advocate of general functionalism, and viewed society from the ‘macro ‘ position of necessitating working parts in order to keep its wellbeing. The analogy was with the organic structure of an being – merely as the organic structure has many specialized variety meats which are required for the organic structure to map, society is besides the amount of its parts: young person, household, instruction, labour force, professionals, faith, authorities etc. Society required these parts to be working together in order for society to map with equilibrium ( Giddens 1993 ) .

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The biological science of ageing had been actively researched since the yearss of Darwin and Mendel, yet the interaction between ageing and society remained undiscovered. Indeed, the Social Science Research Council in the USA concluded in 1948 that the scientific community had paid small attending to the interaction between biological science and society ( Achenbaum and Bengston ) . The first psychosocial theories on ageing and society took form, and were published a decennary subsequently.

Social scientists Elaine Cummins and William Henry published the first of import survey of aging in 1961. They advanced what they called ‘the detachment theory of aging ‘ . This theory was based on informations from the Kansas City Study of Adult Life, in which research workers from the University of Chicago followed several hundred grownups from center to old age. The writers concluded from this survey that turning old was a procedure of ‘disengagement ‘ , whereby the inclination of ageing grownups was to retreat from society and live out their ‘declining ‘ old ages with every bit small intervention with others as was possible. Whilst these findings reflected the societal pattern of the twenty-four hours – such as the ‘granny level ‘ or retirement place environment, the writers besides proposed that this theory had advantages for the person and society.

Harmonizing to Cumming and Henry ‘s theoretical account, the major displacement in interaction between the aged and the remainder of society occurs when older people begin to recognize their worsening physical and cognitive maps and their mortality. They propose that this leads to removal, both consciously and subconsciously, from societal webs. Simultaneously, society distances itself from the aged, and the functions and duties of these aged members of society are passed along to the younger 1s.

From a sociological position, it has been suggested that detachment has theoretical benefits ( cite? ) . For the aged, disengagement facilitates gradual backdown from society, whilst continuing societal equilibrium. Aging removes the capacity for older people to work as parents, professionals or working members of society, and therefore it promotes self-reflection for the aged who are freed from functions of duty within society ( ref? ) . Ultimately, it prepares the aged for a diminution in wellness and decease.

From the position of society, disengagement allows cognition, duty, wealth and power to be transferred from the older coevals to the immature. The functions of the old and the immature in society evolve, such that detachment from functions of duty ensures that the younger population have occupations and functions into which to develop. It makes it possible for society to go on working after valuable older members die.

Clearly, disengagement theory must be viewed in the context of the epoch in which it was developed. Largely, the theory of Cummings and Henry reflected the pattern of the twenty-four hours. Aged people in industrialised states in the sixtiess were encouraged to populate out their worsening old ages without ‘interfering ‘ with advancement and development. In rural scenes, aged people may still hold contributed through the usage of erudite practical accomplishments, although during a clip of rapid technological promotion these accomplishments were less valued than by earlier coevalss. This is a signifier of function discontinuity, whereby what is learned at one age may be useless or struggle with a subsequent period on one ‘s life.

This contrasts with modern-day positions of ageing, whereby aged populations are more familiar with the technological progresss of the 2nd half of the last century. Retirement and detachment in this context may non be to the benefit of society or the person. Furthermore, until late few positive function theoretical accounts for aged persons existed. Those in the public oculus and the media have tended to be vernal in visual aspect, impeding the socialisation to old age. However, with the demographic growing and visibleness of the aged population has come more function theoretical accounts of active and healthy ripening.

In this scene, detachment of persons before they reached the phase of at hand mortality, whilst they are still able contribute to functions in society, may do both societal and fiscal isolation and deficiency of self-worth. Loss of function through loss of partner, divorce or retirement can take to an eroding of individuality and self-pride ( Rosow 1985 ) . This, coupled with the relentless betterment in health care for the aged, suggests that detachment theory may be a merchandise of the post-World War 2 epoch instead than universally applicable.

These jobs with the cosmopolitan cogency of detachment theory were recognised within a few old ages. Activity theory can be viewed as a counterpoint to disengagement theory. Activity theory positions old age as an extension of in-between age, instead than a separate psychological and biological phase of life as proposed by detachment theory. Activity theory really pre-dates detachment theory. In the 1950s Havighurst and Albrecht ( 1953 cited in Katz 1996 ) insisted ageing can be lively and originative experience. Any loss of functions, activities or relationships within old age, should be replaced by new functions or activities to guarantee felicity, value consensus and wellbeing, and that this attack has benefits for the person and society. The theory builds on the rule that the biological procedure of ageing can be modified by modern health care, and hence the lone differences between and old age and in-between age are these modifiable biological procedures, non social wants and demands ( Schulz and rockwood ) .

The footing of the theory is that there is a positive relationship between activity and life satisfaction, and the greater the function loss the lower the sense of dignity or satisfaction ( Lemon 1972 ) . Therefore, a individual ‘s sense of dignity is related to the functions held by that individual i.e. retiring may non be so harmful if the individual actively maintains other functions, such as familial functions, recreational functions, voluntary and community work. However, early research failed to confirm a psychological benefit of continued battle and activity. Lemon, Bengston and Peterson examined cardinal elements of activity theory in a cross-sectional sample of future occupants of a retirement community. In this survey small connexion was found between activity and satisfaction. However, this survey suffers from similar unfavorable judgments as the Kansas City Study of Adult Life. The survey group consisted of Caucasic, middle-class, married persons interested in prosecuting an active retirement. These issues reflect a common job with sociological research into the theories of ageing – limited diverseness of populations and the presence of confusing factors such as attitudes towards activity and battle, limit the cosmopolitan pertinence of findings and finding of causality.

A farther job with both these theories is their ‘macro ‘ attack to the sociological phenomenon of ageing. Activity theory neglects the single issues of inequality and heterogeneousness between age groups. It is clear both activity theory and disengagement theory may be suited to certain persons or groups on society, and may non be universally applicable. Whilst Phillipson ( 1998 ) sees these functionalist schools as of import in determining societal theory, such functionalist theories may ‘impose ‘ a sense of causality on aging by connoting that an aged individual will either ‘disengage ‘ or will be ‘active ‘ . Therefore, it can be argued that these arbitrary societal theories are a signifier of ‘academic imperialism ‘ , whereby the activities of single aged people are dictated by macro-orientated theories instead than taking history of single experiences or utilizing inductive logical thinking.

Continuity theory incorporates facets of activity theory and detachment theory within the functionalist model. Continuity theory maintains the social-psychological that were developed from the Kansas City Studies. The footing of continuity theory is that persons maintain a consistent form of behavior as they age, by replacing lost functions of maturity with similar 1s, and by keeping a changeless attitude of version towards the societal environment. Life satisfaction is determined by the consistence between current activities or life styles with one ‘s life-time experiences ( Neugarten, Havinghurst, Tobin 1968 ) . This consistence in behavior implies that cardinal personality features and nucleus values become more marked with age. That is, that people who have ever been inactive and withdrawn are improbable to go active upon retirement, and frailty versa.

Therefore, this theory does non recommend important psychological alteration with age, unlike the other two ‘macro ‘ theories. It is a micro-level theory, embracing single experiences and versions. However, micro theories suffer from the restriction if non being generalisable, and hence non being able to be through empirical observation tested on a broader graduated table. Furthermore, by concentrating on the person, micro-theories may overlook the function of societal factors in modifying the ageing procedure ( you need mentions for these points ) .

By contrast, the theory of political economic system of old age is a macro-level theory that emerged as a reaction to functionalism, and focuses on societal factors modifying ageing. The theory draws upon Marxist positions of the capitalist nature of modern society and how old age was socially constructed to run into the demands of the modern economic system ( Estes 1979 ) . This grew out of a wider move towards modernisation in sociology, trying to explicate the alterations in society as effects of population ripening, industrialisation and birthrate diminution. Therefore, socioeconomic and political factors, non single factors, are the primary determiners of the experience of ageing. These include age and category, every bit good as gender, sexual orientation and race.

As Phillipson ( 1998 ) points out, in the UK immense signifiers of societal outgo were allocated to older people. Consequently, non merely were older people viewed in medical footings but in resource footings by authoritiess. This built upon the thought of ageing as a ‘burden ‘ to modern society, as Phillipson ( 1998: 17 ) provinces:

‘Older people came to be viewed as a load on western economic systems, with demographic alteration… seen as making unbearable force per unit areas on public outgo ‘ .

The major focal point of the political economic system of ageing was an reading of the relationship between aging and the economic construction. In the USA, political economic system theory was brought to prominence by the work of Estes ( 1979 ) , and Estes, Swan and Gerard ( 1982 ) . Similarly, in the UK, the work of Walker ( 1981 ) , Townsend ( 1981 ) and Phillipson ( 1982 ) contributed to understanding age and ageing in modern British society. In the USA, Estes, Swan and Gerard ( 1982 ) province that the category construction is the major determiner of the socio-economic place of older people in society. Estes justifies this place by utilizing a Marxist position of society to explicate how a person ‘s societal worth is dependent on their productiveness. All subsequent policy towards age and ripening can be explained from this premiss. Negative attitudes towards older people, and their destitute place, can be explained by their loss of societal deserving brought about by their loss of a productive function in modern society. Estes ( 1979 ) besides claims that political economic system theory highlights the function of the province in modern-day society. Since the province dictates the allotment of resources, this determines the allotment of retirement and pension strategies, and is hence a farther key determiner of societal worth of aged people.

Phillipson ( 1982 ) builds on this point of position, ad goes on to province that retirement is linked to the timing of economic decrease of rewards and enforced backdown from work, and therefore many older people in the UK in a financially insecure place. Therefore, the province can find the societal place and hereafter of its aged citizens, and indirectly determine predominating societal and cultural attitudes to the aged. Indeed, any treatment about alteration in the public assistance province leads to farther legitimisation of the ‘burden ‘ stereotype of the aged in society.

Repeating this point of position, Townsend ( 1981 ) states that society creates the societal jobs of old age through ‘structured dependence ‘ embedded in institutional agism, through deficiency of material resources due to poorness, retirement policy, the negative effects of residential attention, and hapless construction of community attention. Townsend puts frontward the thought that there is a ‘structural ‘ position of ‘rules and resources ‘ regulating older people in modern society. Townsend claims that the attack is: ‘one whereby society is held to make the model of establishments and regulations within which the general job of the aged emerge or, so, “ manufactured ” . In the mundane direction of the economic system and the disposal and development of societal establishments the place of the aged subtly changed and shaped ‘ . ( Townsend 1981: 9 )

Similarly, Walker ( 1981 ) argues for a theory of ‘political economic system of old age ‘ in order to understand the place of older people. In peculiar, Walker ( 1981: 77 ) physiques on the thought that the construction of modern society propagates dependency among groups such as the aged – a ‘social creative activity of dependence ‘ . Phillipson ( 1982, 1986 ) writes in a similar vena, and considers how capitalist economy helps socially build the societal marginality of older people in cardinal countries such as public assistance. The cardinal statement of these authors within the Marxist school of idea is inequalities in the distribution of resources should be understood in footings of the distribution of power within society, instead than in footings of fluctuation between persons.

In add-on to the statement that societal and governmental policy contributes to the socialization and marginalizing of old age, political economic system theory criticizes the accent on community battle and the attendant societal devaluing of aged people who can non or take non to prosecute in these activities. Activities such as engagement in voluntary programmes and societal work may be viewed as a manner to run into public service spreads created by decreased public support. Although the benefits of volunteering have been proposed by activity theory, from the point of position of political economic system it is societal and structural factors that influence the persons determination to volunteer or take part. For illustration, aged persons who are besides carers for their partner or their grandchildren may non be able to take on extra societal functions, and may go forth the person vulnerable to societal unfavorable judgment. Indeed, it has been noted that a paradigm of ageing that merely values productiveness and civic-engagement can stigmatize and disempower seniors who can non lend to society because of unwellness, disablement or limited clip and resources ( cite? ) .

The life-course position is non needfully a theory, but a model of ageing as a womb-to-tomb procedure. It attempts to explicate how ripening is shaped by earlier events, including societal construction and history along with interactions with household and civilization. Individual development of personality and knowledge interact with these other factors impacting life-course. Time is the cardinal variable, since it influences relationships in three ways: life experiences influence relationships, household events and household passages influence persons and interactions, and events in a broader societal historical context besides influence societal function and values. Social context interacts with persons and influences them and their relationships.

This model takes history of the diverseness of functions and function alterations across lifetime, since it views development as happening at all phases and non merely any one phase of life. It takes into history the additions and losingss that occur through life-course, instead than sing development as a additive procedure. Therefore, development is considered multidirectional, with stableness or development in countries, and diminution in others. For illustration, ageing may take to impairment in short-run memory but non in creativeness or societal map. Therefore, this attack takes history of micro and macro degrees of development and provides a model to determine farther sociological research into ageing.

In decision, sociological theories of ageing have evolved alongside alterations in human ecology and economic sciences since the early twentieth century. The functionalist theories of activity and detachment approached ageing in the context of the predominating position of the clip. Although based on empirical grounds – the experimental surveies from Kansas metropolis – these surveies were limited to middle-class Caucasion populations and yet were extrapolated to macro-level theories. As such, both these theories suffered unfavorable judgments for their deficiency of generalisability, and newer theories were developed as an immediate reaction.

In the context of economic problems during the 1970s, the sociology of ageing began to be viewed in an economic position. The position of structural facets of society interacting with healthy or unhealthy ripening has advanced sociological idea in this country, and laid the foundation for modern-day positions of ageing. Current demographic issues such as the predominating economic clime, worsening birthrate and betterments in health care have changed the sociological position of ageing. As such, these issues must be addressed as farther research efforts to see life-course influences on ageing at both a macro- and micro-theoretical degree.


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