Ageing Theory sample essay

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P4: In this assignment I will be explaining two theories which are the disengagement theory and the activity theory.

Disengagement theory

The disengagement theory suggests when people reach old age, they tend to naturally withdraw themselves from society and social involvement, elderly folk will also reduce their physical activity due to complications with poor health as they grow old. This among other reasons will result in restricted opportunities to interact with others and forms an individual mentality/approach to life due to becoming less concerned with the expectation of others/withdrawal. In 1975 Cumming argued that “it was appropriate and healthy for older people to withdraw from others” because it was deemed a natural part of the ageing process. The disengagement theory states that older people start to withdraw themselves from society and others because of their bodily issues i.e. hearing loss, loss of vision and reduction in physical movement.

These complications can cause an older persons health to deteriorate which results in the loss of communication with others and withdrawal from society along with social interaction. Retirement can also be a contributing factor for elderly people not to be involved as much due to the inevitability that they will lose touch with their ex colleagues and friends. Older people may also have family that live far away therefore, they may not be able to travel much due to not having access to a car or even have access to technology such as the internet. This restricts the opportunity for social contact and leads to further disengagement due to being isolated from the new generation’s facilities. However, critics point out that disengagement can be discredited for a number of reasons.

The majority of older people do remain socially involved with family and friends and many older people become more involved with close family as they become older. It may be that many older people choose to spend the time they have remaining with people they feel close to, rather than seeking to make new friends. If people only interact with close friends does this mean they are disengaged? It is also important to remember disengagement can often be enforced, rather than voluntary. For example, people who need to move to a nursing home experience restrictions on their social circle as well as limitations on their friends, this can result in fewer connections as friends die and depression/isolation occurs due to inability to change the situation they are in. This is why many people don’t agree with the disengagement theory.

Activity theory

The activity theory suggests that older people need to disengage, but that they also need to remain “active” in order to limit the risks associated with disengagement i.e. stagnation, loss of mental and physical skills. Being mentally and physically active is viewed as being very important because it can improve mental and physical health in later life. The general ideology of the activity theory is the more you do, the better you will age. People who maintain an interest in life and continue to be engaged with family and friends tend to be healthier, happier and more in touch with what is going on around them. However, it is not sufficient merely to provide facilities for elderly people. They need to be educated to make use of them and encouraged to engage in a full day of activities, this will result in a high level of productivity and in theory slow down the ageing process.

Furthermore, the activity theory can be argued against to some degree because it doesn’t remain true. It is somewhat difficult to suggest just being busy will help greatly with ageing. Therefore, a heightened level of activity is needed, but it needs to be engaging and fulfilling, rather than just busy work/stimulation. As people get older, nerve cells in the brain get weaker which results in memory loss, in order to prevent this from happening old people choose to be mentally active by taking courses and getting involved in studies, and physically active by going on walks, the gym even swimming. To conclude this theory implies by truly engaging ourselves in later life with purpose it can make us live longer.


I think it is best to stay active for as long as you can, it means a better social life and a healthy body and mind. It may even increase your life expectancy. I feel disengagement from society and social interaction would have serious consequences and would result in life expectancy being decreased. However, people may be forced in to disengagement through injury or onset of disease/disability.

M2: I will be discussing the disengagement and active theories in relation to the individual I have chosen. Disengagement theory in relation to Barrack

When Barack Obama reaches old age, he may go through disengagement. This would include a withdrawal from society and social interaction. This may be caused by various factors as the ageing process begins to start and his physical and mental state declines. Obama may distance himself from family and friends which would restrict his opportunities, this is because older people tend to disengage themselves totally and chose not to be involved in social activities/interaction. Therefore, Obama could develop an individual approach and become stuck with this mentality which would result in isolation as he becomes less concerned with the expectations of others. A number of factors can contribute to Obama becoming further disengaged such as retirement. Due to the amount of stress and responsibilities he has had to deal with for a long period of time, he may feel a time out is required. This will inevitably mean the loss of friends and ex colleagues.

Another factor could be the deterioration of his health for example, his eye sight, hearing and physical movement may all contribute to him socially disengaging. This would cause further complications and would also restrict Obama from travelling. The realization of death would then begin to linger while he considers the amount of time he has remaining. Furthermore, mental aspects may also occur due to contemplating his previous decisions he made while in power which could have a detrimental effect and may result in him developing depression. This will no doubt result in him no longer wanting his picture taken, and health services being required in order to help him cope with the situation he is in (mentally unstable maybe even forced disengagement). The mutual relationship he once had with society would then begin to evaporate as the disengagement process is completed.

Activity theory in relation to Barrack Obama

However, if Obama chooses to remain active, he will be more likely to overcome the negative factors that social disengagement causes. If Obama retires after his term as president of the United States, he could continue to work for the America government by being part of international relations. Therefore, he would continue to travel and have his photograph taken due to being an ambassador for his nation. This would mean he will maintain a heighted level of activity that would be engaging, fulfilling, and stimulate his brain which would delay the aging process and in theory prolong any health issues.

Furthermore, Obama would maintain an interest in life and continue to be engaged with family and friends, this would result in him being healthier, happier and more in touch with what was going on around him. He would also be involved in family gatherings and physical activities such as keeping fit i.e. running and attending the gym. All these active factors would form a physical and social routine which would no doubt prevent any sort of disengagement. D2: I will be evaluating how each theory is associated to health and social care provision and what influences health and social care can provide. Ageing and health and social care provision

The activity and disengagement theory both relate to health and social care settings. Looking at the activity theory, it is clear that it still has an impact on health and social care settings, most services help people to be active by providing various physical and social activities i.e. care homes provide bingo, quizzes, chess, cards, music and sensory activities which keep elderly people occupied. These games are used in order to keep them entertained and their minds active, whereas day care centres offer days out, dancing and exercise. I believe these services help people to be involved rather than push them away and disengage them as they encourage physical and social interaction/participation. People are living longer due to these services and our good public health/lifestyle.

Most health and social care provisions urge older people to remain active because it helps prolong body functions, boosts self esteem and in theory delays the negative effects of ageing. Doctor’s surgeries, community centres and hospitals will also have leaflets and posters with information on revealing how to stay active and will show activities and exercises that older people can do in order to keep healthy. It is now viewed as very important to remain active because as we grow older people tend to lose their memory. This is caused by a decrease in the number of brain cells and the body weakening. Therefore, maintaining a heighted level of activity that is engaging, fulfilling, and stimulates the brain helps delay complications and the aging process.

Policies and procedures have changed over the years, giving older people more respect. Having these rights help older people feel more safe and secure in society. All these services for older people will aim to provide quality assurance, choice and ensure the upmost respect is given to the people they are caring for. Older people should always have a choice as to how active they wish to be. If some older people do not want to take part and be disengaged in activities and other participations then that is fine as they have free will in what they want to do and what they do not want to do. Some people may even have disabilities or mental health problems. Therefore, they may not want to take part as they will feel belittled or intimidated it is also a part of their human rights. Quality services will never attempt to force older people to be active and engaged, but they will provide opportunities and encouragement for individuals to maintain the continuity of their lives and remain as active as they wish which must be respected and always taken into account.

Looking at the disengagement theory, it is clear that it still has an impact on health and social care settings. Although there are many services that provide physical and social engagement, it can be difficult for elderly people to be involved. I believe there are a number of influences in today’s society that encourage disengagement. For example, Disabilities contribute when forming interaction socially and physically, travel expenses is also an issue, many people don’t have access to transport, although there are mini buses/bus passes now available for elderly people, lots of elderly, mentally challenged and disabled find it difficult to attend these services (forced disengagement).

Some people may even struggle to adapt to retirement, someone who has been working all there life may find it difficult to find themselves out of the loop through the loss of ex colleagues and friends even death i.e. the loss of a loved one is a contributing factor and provides an outlet to disengage completely. Furthermore, more people now use drugs, smoke and drink alcohol excessively. Alcohol is a depressant and if used inappropriately it can form an addiction which eventually results in people wanting to be on their own and not wanting to leave their homes. Drugs, smoking and alcohol can also cause diseases such as cancer, liver disease and mental illnesses which all affect how individuals engage. All these factors could result in serious complications/implications i.e. people not waiting to interact physically or socialise at all.


Overall I personally believe that today’s society is based more on the activity theory. People are becoming less ill because of the NHS and living longer due to various health and social care services providing engagement both physically and socially. Campaigns on healthy eating, exercise and things to do to keep active is being put out in the open daily. This includes medicines, treatments and screenings. The activity theory provides some evidence of being effective because more and more older people are living in their own homes, keeping active both physically and socially and even cooking healthy meals for themselves as people are becoming more alert to what their body requires, retirement is also now shown to be enjoyable, elderly people ensure they maintain a routine which involves interacting with family and friends, in addition to volunteering which helps them engage and in theory, be more in touch with what is going on around them leading to a happier, healthier life.

In my opinion the disengagement theory is very negative on society and on a person. Although it is sometimes viewed as an unavoidable weakness, no one in today’s world wants to be separated from society because of their age. I believe the theory to be ignorant to the fact that older people are still individuals regardless of the process of ageing there are still people who are capable of enjoying life and being part of society which deserve respect and the right to have choices and be independent. Although complications can occur as the ageing process takes place i.e. loss of mobility, illness, malfunction of the body. It is important that people rights are respected and if they want to disengage themselves from society they are free to do so.