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Exploring Social Theories of Aging and Achieving Optimal Aging

May 20, 2023 | 0 comments

May 20, 2023 | Essays | 0 comments

Aging is not just the passage of time, but a manifestation of the biological events that takes place over a period of time. Theories are sets of concepts and ideas inter related that have been tested scientifically and joined to magnify, clarify, enlarge and finally expand the understanding of people, their societies and behaviors (Davies, 2003p.23). Social theories of aging are concepts of psychological and social in older persons. The social theories of aging include activity expressed when adopting new roles and continuity, which includes social and physical activities retention from the middle years. The bottom line of social theories is that as people grow older, their social interactions, behavior changes and their activities they participate change. The four social theories of aging include:

Disengagement theory

It refers to the inevitable process where any of the relationships between an individual and other societal members are severed, and those remaining are changed in quality (Binstock et al, 1996p.46).


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Activity theory

The theory suggests that an individual’s self concept have a relationship to the roles held by that individual. For instance retiring my not be harmful if the individual maintains actively other roles, such as recreational, familial, community and volunteer roles (Ellis, 1998p.34).

Life course theories

The theory proposes that an approach to maturity is a process. Within every stage an individual faces a dilemma or a crisis that the person must make a resolution to move forward to the next stage, or to make a resolution which results in an incomplete development.

Continuity theory

The theory states that the older adults try to make preservation and maintain external and internal structures by applying strategies that maintain the continuity. This means that the older people may seek to apply strategies that are familiar in familiar life areas (Davies, 2003).

Optimal aging is can be defined as the highest potential living that has a possibility, given every life pattern, mental and physical reserves, social context, functional ability and environmental influences  of an older adult (Binstock, 1996). Therefore, optimal ageing to every older adult is possible, whether independently living with a good health, coping with disability or chronic illnesses, or even receiving considerable help with daily life activities in a nursing facility. According to Ellis (1998p.76), the three evidenced based methods to build the optimal ageing foundation are managing or preventing diseases, building or maintaining cognitive and physical function, and renewing or continuing engagement with life.

The functions of friendship in the late friendship according to Davies (2003p.66) include:

Companionship and intimacy: the friends of the elderly should take some walks, go shopping and visit the elderly. Furthermore, engaging in pleasurable conversations brings out worry and happiness to the aged.

Acceptance: the aged friends shield each other from negative judgment on their worth and capabilities as people. This stems them from frequent stereotypes of aging.

 A link to the community at large: for the elderly persons who cannot move out often, the friend’s interactions can keep them to be informed on the daily events in the world. Furthermore, the friends can create new experiences that the aged might not participate alone

Protection from the consequences of psychological loss: the older adults who has declining health but remain in close contact to friends through visits and phone calls show progress in psychological well-being.


In conclusion, understanding social theories of aging is crucial in comprehending the dynamics of aging and its impact on individuals. The theories of disengagement, activity, life course, and continuity shed light on the changes in social interactions, roles, and activities that occur as people grow older. Additionally, striving for optimal aging is attainable for every older adult, regardless of their living situation or health condition. By managing diseases, maintaining cognitive and physical function, and engaging with life, older adults can enhance their overall well-being and quality of life. Recognizing the importance of friendship and companionship in late adulthood further emphasizes the significance of social connections for promoting a fulfilling and enriching aging experience. By embracing these concepts, individuals and societies can foster an inclusive and supportive environment that promotes healthy aging for all.


Davies, I. (2003). Ageing. London: E. Arnold.

Binstock, R. H., & George, L. K. (1996). Handbook of aging and the social sciences. San Diego: Academic Press.

Ellis, A., & Velten, E. C. (1998). Optimal aging: Get over getting older. Chicago: Open Court.

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