The disengagement theory is one of the first social theories of ageing developed by Cumming and Henry in 1961. It is the idea of which states older people begin to withdraw or disengage from their past roles in society due to the decrease of their physical, intellectual and emotional abilities and skills which they are unable to accommodate in their roles. Also, at this stage of life, the elderly will eventually begin to diminish interests in activities and hobbies. This leads to inactivity which will further affect physical and emotional development negatively. Society plays a big part of this theory as it contributes to the behaviour portrayed towards the elderly. The younger generation may look down the elderly, which has a major influence on the idea of society having adverse expectations and behaviours of the elderly due to the degrading health and disabilities. Instead, Cumming and Henry suggest that older people will prefer passive, solitary activities, and will be willingly give up traditional or normal ways of behaviour. Disengagement is socially constructed and a product of our cultural beliefs about the nature of ageing. What we define as being disengaged may, from the point of view of the elderly, be very engaged are spending time with grandchildren, travelling, volunteering, or even playing bingo passive and empty ways to spend time, or ways of engaging with others around common activities. This can lead to negative emotional development as a senior may feel that they are no longer have any value to roles in society because gradually, the power of older people will decrease and will be overtaken by the younger generation, which can lead to depression and isolation. Activity Theory
Another theory proposed by Lemon, Bengston and Peterson in 1972 which has a more optimistic view of Ageing. It suggests that older people age more successfully when they maintain roles and relationships; engage in more activities and preserve a positive view of life. The activity theory also suggests that older people will have a better quality of life from captivating social contacts and activities which will keep them occupied. The activity theory is a “psycho sociological” theory, one concerned more with psychology and social interactions than actual activities, helps put it in perspective. It is really helpful to look at how staying active impacts the emotional health and self-esteem of seniors, but does not improve the physical development of one, especially with a disability. Furthermore, some people consider this idea as a start of a movement to develop senior centres and focus on getting older generation engaged, rather than keeping them passive or sedentary. In contrast to the disengagement theory, that suggests older people should follow through the ‘natural’ ageing process, which is to withdraw and settle into inactivity until the end of life. Although the Activity theory is seen to be a key to successful ageing, it still suggests that doing substitution activities that you have no interest in may have negative consequences. The type of beneficial activity will vary between individuals. For example some older people prefer a structured life of volunteering committee work or a less structured lifestyle.
Activity 2 – John and Ellen case study
John (aged 76) worked as a milkman from aged 15 until he retired age 65; he loved his job and was well know as the cheerful helpful milkman. Relates to the activity theory which is continuing current roles until retirement which lead to a better quality of life. This is because he maintained what he enjoyed in life. In result, he retired happily
John played football regularly until he was 46 when he moved on to coach the company team. He often went out to the local social club and on day trips with work colleagues and their families. John was also an avid card player. John used to do all the painting and decorating in his home and took on jobs like fitting a new kitchen and carpet fitting. Again relates to the activity theory as he remained doing his hobbies and interest which then progressed into a different activity to which he substituted from his previous. He then took on new roles and hobbies which he kept him occupied. He is also taking this opportunity to do what he has always wanted to do/accomplish. Going out and socialising ensured that he is occupied and communicating with other people as he got older which decreased the effect of ageing. After his retirement and particularly after his wife died when he was 69 John gradually withdrew from the social circle around his job and by the time he was 70 didn’t socialise at all with his old work colleagues. John eventually only went out on ‘essential’ journeys e.g. for shopping or appointments. His daughter does his monthly shopping online and has it delivered by the supermarket and John relies on his son and son in law for help with ‘the big jobs’ around the house, all john has to do is suggest something needs doing e.g. “that back gate needs mending” and a member of his family will organise getting it done for him. John’s daughter affectionately describes her father as ‘a lovely grumpy old man Due to factors, which in john’s case is losing a partner, affected his emotional development negatively which caused him to withdraw from other people, isolating himself from social events and losing his job. This now relates to the first theory which was the disengagement theory where he disengage himself from society, and have this idea that he i at the stage of life where he has little or no use in society due to his age. Furthermore, as he accepts his new role and lifestyle, he now relies on his family to do his daily routines and jobs to carry on with everyday life. He has now become very dependent.
John’s daughter portrays the stereotype to which society has for the elderly as she describes john “a lovely grumpy old man” ELLEN
Ellen (aged 86) was a care assistant in a local nursing home until her retirement aged 60, after retirement Ellen enrolled in the Open University and completed a foundation degree in Fine Art. She also attended a local adult education centre and did ICLT classes aimed at older people that included learning how to use the internet and emails, this helped her with her studies and to keep in touch with her class group and tutor. Since her retirement Ellen has maintained her regular attendance at church and supports church events and functions. She takes full advantage of her free bus pass and goes on outings with friends to local towns and places of interest. Ellen pays an active role in her family – she is unable to carry heavy shopping or look after the very young grandchildren but she does smaller errands, looks after the school aged grandchildren occasionally and she visits her son and daughters most weeks. Ellen’s plans for the future include more study, a cruise holiday and to do some voluntary work befriending older people who are unable to leave their homes. Ellen’s case is a mixture of the disengagement theory and the Activity theory as she accepts her old age but has found new ways to keep herself more occupied, therefore in this case her life is more based on the activity theory. She has planned her future as a structured lifestyle by attending church events and other social events. She is still living on her own, meaning she still independent and does not rely on her family. She keeps in touch of her family as they visit her occasionally. This keeps her in touch with her relationships which reduce the negative effects of ageing.