Gerontology Chapter 3 Theories of Aging

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The first practitioners of social gerontology, saw old age as a period of inevitable physical and mental decline.
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developmental psychologists
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Personal Adjustment in Old Age
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book published in1949, presented the results of a large study sponsored by the Committee of Human Development, located at the University of Chicago. The study concerned whit middle class people over 60. the study concluded that poor adjustment correlated with lack of activity, while people who continued to remain active and productive remained well adjusted.
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Kansas City Study of Adult Life
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coupled the emphasis on adjustment with measures of social role performance across the life span. measured social role performance.. sought to document patterns of development from middle age to old age. In the first phase of the project, interviews were conducted with 750 residents of Kansas City, Missouri, aged 40 to 70. The results indicated there was no consitent change in competency or or quality of role performance in middle age- people remained engaged in their primary occupations and and absorbed at home.
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Fred Cottrell1942
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First applied role performance to age
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Flaws with the Kansas City Study of Adult Life
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no one older than 70 was interviewed. The subjects were interviewed only once.
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second project
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people age 40 to 85 were interviewed yearly to determine how personality or psychological states changed as they aged. Several measures of personality traits were used, and the results were inconsistent.
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Interiorization (Neugarten)
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A withdrawal from involvement in wordly affairs, a decrease in energy available to the ego, and a decrease in impulse control. Disengagement theory was derived from this.
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Disengagement Theory
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The first formal theory of aging. Proposed in 1961 by Elaine Cumming and William Henry, who outlined in their book Growing Old.: The Process of Disengagement. They argued that normal aging involves a natural and inevitable mutual withdrawal or disengagement, because of the inevitability of death, so as not to be disruptive to the social system. It doesn’t matter who initiates, but it becomes circular. A readiness for disengagement occurs when the individual becomes aware of the shortness of life and scarcity of time. The individual seeks to withdraw, and society offers him permission. When death occurs, everyone is prepared.
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controversies about disengagement theory
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that it was universal, meaning it happens everywhere and in all historical eras. that it was inevitable, meaning it must happen sometime to everyone. that it was intrinsic, caused by biological rather than social factors.
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Activity theory
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Robert Havughughurst formalized what Cumming and Henry had called the \”implicit\” theory of aging. He was a collaborator on the Kansas City Study of Adult Life. He argued that the psychological and social needs of the elderly were no different than that of the middle aged, and it was not normal for people to become withdrawn. So when that does happen it is due to events beyond control. So, maintaining activities as long as possible and then finding substitues for those activities is active aging.
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volunteers
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gain social approval from others, which improves self- esteem. they have fewer symptoms of anxiety and higher levels of life satisfaction. when combined with work, they have even better mental health.
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depression
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It is not activities themselves that help, but having a network of close friends and relatives.
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who withdraws and why?
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widowhood, poor health, and retirement are better predictors of activity level than age. Poverty can lead to involuntary disengagement.
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150 of the oldest old
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The half that remained engaged were more likely to to be married, have a child living nearby, be in better health and more physically fit. The disengaged had physically and psychologically narrowed their social worlds. They were seeing fewer people, being involved in fewer activities, distancing from the concerns of others, becoming introverted.
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nursing home residents
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residents participate in activities occasionally or never. Communication may be difficult. Depression may cause disengagement.
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continuity theory
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represents a more formal elaboration of activity theory. Proposed by Robert Atchley, dichotomy of internal and external aging processes described in the Kansas City Studies. Emphasizes that personality plays a major role in the adjustment to aging and that adult development is a continuous process. Changes can be incorporated that still that still preserve the unique characteristics of the individual. Allows people to offset the effects of aging.
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controversial element of continuity theory
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Normal aging… can be distinguished from pathological aging by a lack of physical or mental disease. people who age normally can meet their needs, pathological aging occurs in people who are unable to meet their needs because they are poor or disabled.
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Gay Becker
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criticized the distinction between pathological and normal aging. argued that chronic illness is common in old age and does not impede the ability to participate in society or socially meaningful experiences. In her view it is unnecessary to use a term like pathological aging. rather one should ask what mechanisms people use to create continuity in the face of disruption.
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subculture theory
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shares traits with activity theory and disengagement theory, such as people lose status in old age, focus on role changes in later life, and activity enhances the lives of the elderly. However, it was built on the theory of subcultural development.
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subcultures
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develop under two sets of circumstances. The first is when people share similar interests, problems, concerns, or have long standing friendships. The second is when groups of people are excluded from participation is wider society.
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Arnold Rose
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applied subculture theory to the study of aging. Argued that older people are subject to both conditions of subculture. They have affinity for each other based on infirmity, they share common role changes and common generational experiences, and they are excluded by younger people.
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Merrill Court
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a small apartment building in San Francisco. Arlie Hochschild studied the subculture there and how there was a hierarchy with the \”poor dears\” at the bottom
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exchange theory
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suggests that personal relationships feel most satisfying when both participants are seen as contributing equally to the relationship. resources are often unequal and actors will continue to engage only as long as the benefits are greater than the costs.
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problems with exchange theory
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it ignores the value of nonrational resources, such as love and companionship. It focuses on immediate interactions between old people and other age groups. It overlooks how exchanges between the generations take place over the life course
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immediate exchange strategy
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an exchange that takes place immediately
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deferred exchange strategy
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recognizes the importance of strong ties built up over time
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social constructionism
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people create the society in which they live. they study how social meanings of age and self- conception of age arise through negotiation and discourse.
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modernization theory
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there was once a golden age of aging. Three generations lived together. The old were few but valued, veneration. Modernization shattered this traditional society. Cowgill outlined how this took place. health technology, economic technology, and urbanization, and mass education.
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age stratification theory
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one of the most influential and enduring gerontological theories. Matilda White Riley pioneered it. 1.How do individuals location in the changing age structure of a given society influence his or her behavior and attitudes? 2. How do individuals relate to one another within and between age strata? Is there an inevitable gap between generations? 3. How do individuals pass between key transitions from infancy to childhood to adolescence to adulthood to old age? 4. What is the impact of those three answers on society as a whole?
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age integration theory
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people of all ages have an opportunity to pursue education, work, and leisure.
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structural lag
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when outdated social structures prevent people of certain ages from fully participating in society
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political economy theories
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highlight the structural influences on aging and emphasize the relevance of power struggles for how the aged are treated. How do private troubles become public issues and generate responses?
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feminist theories
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to illuminate the gendered nature of a society. gender differentiation, gender inequalities, and gender hierarchy.
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critical gerontology
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theories are outdated. considers how the forces of globalization affect policies and programs for the aged and the daily lives of older people.

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