When child faces to the new phenomenon he tries to explain it. This explanation can be primitive and give the awry picture of the reality. Child can use this explanation during certain time but he can change his opinion later, when he will get new knowledge and old theory will be replaced by the new one. Scientists… They are children-like… New toys, new theories…
In 1961 the new theory of aging, the disengagement theory, was introduced. The key postulate of the theory is a natural withdrawal of the seniors from the social life. In other words, the followers of the disengagement theory (or functionalists) use “rocking chair” approach to aging. They mean that old age is different than middle age and elderly is characterized by the decreased interaction with social environment. They think that growing old is easier for men than women. The disengagement theory is centered on the society functions rather than on individuality. Functionalists tell us: “Older adults do not need to be active. Don’t worry about it, c’est la vie!”
Just some questions. OK, respected sirs and madams, senior people are disengaged by the society. Have you asked seniors before to draw this conclusion? Of course, older people gradually disengage from social interaction as they grow older but it’s not true for such types of social activity as volunteer work, club activities, church attendance etc. I think that social activity is an important determinant of health and social well-being. Age stratification based on the disengagement theory has many weaknesses. There are “class” character of the stratification, the “generation gap” between experiences of different age strata and their role behaviour.
Another approach was proposed by the interactionists. Their theory is theory of activity. The interactionists think that the isolation of the seniors is abnormal phenomenon. They see the base of social stratification of seniors not in their age but in social, socio-economical and health issues. Widows, childless and single people, disable persons, seniors with low income – they are candidates for the social failure. Successful aging is active aging. How to achieve it? We can extend active life and develop programs of age-appropriate replacements for retired persons. So when we prefer the activity theory we get more chances to control the situation. That is the reason why this theory is better.