Sociological Theories of Aging (1). Introduction. This chapter presents some answers—theoretical statements that have been placed in two broad categories (1) theories that attempt to conceptualize the adjustment of individuals to their own aging and
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This chapter presents some answers—theoretical statements that have been placed in two broad categories
(1) theories that attempt to conceptualize the adjustment of individuals to their own aging and
(2) theories that deal with the relationship between a society’s social system and its older members.
According to Bengtson, Rice, and Johnson (1999)
(1) Integration of knowledge—A good theory summarizes findings from different empirical studies and describes linkages among key constructs (構念).
(2) Explanation of knowledge—A useful theory describes in a logically sound way how and why empirically observed phenomena are related.
(3) Predictions about what is not yet known or observed—Research based on theory can lead to new discoveries based on principles proposed in earlier theories.
(4) Interventions to improve human conditions—Theory is valuable when applied to existing knowledge in order to solve problems or alleviate human suffering. Theory can inform public policy.
Aging and the individuals
Role Theory, Activity theory, Disengagement theory, continuity theory, socioenvironmental theory, Exchange theory, Symbolic Interactionism
Aging and Society
Subculture of the Aging, Modernization Theory, Age Stratification, Political Economy of Aging,
Critical Gerontology, Feminist Gerontology
The earliest attempt in social gerontology to understand the adjustment of the aged individual was placed within a role—theory framework (Cottrell 1942).
Generally speaking, research done within this framework was practically oriented.
Researchers were concerned with the problems of adjustment due to role changes in later life.
(1) The relinquishment of social relationships
and roles typical of adulthood and
(2) Their replacement by retirement and the acceptance of social relationships typical of the later years, such as dependency on offspring [ Cavan et al 1949 ]
The special dilemma of role change for older people is that they are more likely to lose roles than to acquire new ones.
Further, these losses, such as the loss of the worker role with retirement, are largely irreversible and may lead to erosion of social identity and decline in self—esteem. (Rosow 1985) .
Lemon, Bengtson, and Peterson  attempted a formal and explicit test of the activity theory. Using a sample of 411 potential in—movers to a southern California retirement community.
They distinguishing among informal activity (with friends, relatives, and neighbors), formal activity (participation in voluntary organizations), and solitary(獨自的） activity (maintenance of household). They found that only social activity with friends was significantly related to life satisfaction.
the activity perspective assumes that individuals have a great deal of control over their social situations.
It assumes that people have the capacity to construct—or, more appropriately, reconstruct—their lives by substituting new roles and activities for lost ones.
In this regard, the theory may be more about the relationships among socioeconomic status, life—style, health, and psychological well—being than about the relationship between activity and life satisfaction.
the activity perspective emphasizes the stability of psychological and social needs through the adult phases of the life cycle. But what about the person whose environment changes at a particular age—for example, when he or she retires, is deprived of status, or is widowed? Might this individual’s social and psychological needs change in the face of the substantial change in environment?
an important problem in activity theory is the expectation that activities of any kind can substitute for lost involvement in work, marriage, and parenting.
Put forth by Cumming and Henry(1961), stands in contrast to role theory and activity theory.
Disengagement theory represents a transformation or new way of thinking about aging that shifted the focus away from the individual to the social system as the source of explanation (Lynott AND Lynott 1996).
Cumming and Henry asked, ‘ How does this affect the needs of social system functioning?’
(1) the aging individual accepts—perhaps even desires—the decrease inn interaction.
(2) Proponents of this theory argue that gradual disengagement is functional for society, which would otherwise be faced with disruption by sudden withdrawal of its members.
(3) The disengagement theory postulates that society withdraws from the aging person to the same extent as the person withdraws from society. This is , of course just another way of saying that the process is normatively governed and in a sense agreed upon by all concerned.
(4) Cumming and Henry (1961) argue that the process of disengagement was both inevitable and universal.
All social systems, if they were to maintain successful equilibrium, would necessarily disengage from the elderly.
Disengagement was seen as a prerequisite to social stability. Older people could be released from societal expectation that they work and be productive.
(1) Through the 1960s and 1970s, most research efforts were unable to offer empirical support for the theory.Youmans (1967) found that a sample of the rural elderly did not, in general, experience disengagement.
(2) Tallmer and Kumer (1970) found that physical and social stress, rather than aging perse, often produces disengagement. This suggests that the extent to which a person disengages may be a function of that individual’s occupation or position in the community.
(1) First, Hochschild argues that the disengagement theory allows no possibility for counterevidence.
(2) Second, the major variables in the theory—age and disengagement—turn out to be ‘ umbrella’ variables, which are divisible into numerous other promising variables (social and psychological disengagement). Carp  distinguishes among types of social disengagement,
(3) Third, the disengagement theory essentially ignores the aging person’s own view of aging and disengagement. Behavior that looks like disengagement to the observer may have a completely different meaning for the aging person.
Into the 1980s, the activity and disengagement perspectives dominated the theoretical discussion in social gerontology, but several alternative perspectives have since been put forth. Four somewhat related theories that deserve mention are the
On the basic of the possible contributions of the two variables, physical proximity and age homogeneity, Gubrium developed a typology of social contexts.
Type 1. Age homogeneous, close physical proximity.
Type 2. Age heterogeneous, close physical proximity.
Type 3. Age homogeneous, distant physical proximity.
Type 4. Age heterogenous, distant physical proximity
(1) Of utmost importance to the socioenvironmental theory is the recognition that different social contexts generate different sets of activity norms for aged.
(2)To the extent such norms place behavioral demands on individuals, it becomes clear that different social contexts place different demands on the elderly.
(3)Gubrium suggests that individuals who have the resources (health, financial solvency, and social support)] to meet the demands of the environment will show high morale and self—satisfaction.
(4)Incongruence between environmental expectations and activity resources leads to low morale and diminished life satisfaction.