The to accommodate a considerable amount of change

The Disengagement Theory was proposed by
Elaine Cumming and William E. Henry in 1961.

The Activity Theory was proposed by
Robert J. Havighurst and John W.

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Albrecht in 1963.


The Continuity Theory was proposed by Robert
J. Havighurst, Bernice L. Neugarten, and Sheldon S. Tobin in 1968.

assumption made by the Disengagement Theory is that elders try to avoid the
stress that comes with weakening capabilities (Hillier & Barrow, 2015). To
accomplish this, some individuals isolate themselves from social contact with
activities such as reading, listening to music, or gardening” (Hillier &
Barrow, 2015, p. 82).


Activity Theory assumes that mental and social activity is the essence of
life for people of all ages” (Hillier & Barrow, 2015, p.81). Adapting a
positive attitude is associated with high levels of activity, and better
adjustment in life (Hillier & Barrow, 2015). Correspondingly, those who
do not develop a clear role in society will be socially excluded. With an
active lifestyle comes a “positive self-image, social integration, life
satisfaction, and successful aging” (Hillier & Barrow, 2015, p. 81).

aging adults manage to maintain their conduct, personality, and
relationships. As adults age, they sustain their original mentality. “Individuals
invest themselves in internal and external frameworks of their lives that
allow them to accommodate a considerable amount of change without experiencing
crisis” (Atchley, 2006). By adulthood, forbearance levels for stress have been
established, and temperament traits are centralized. With time, “certain
forms of adversity come more normative” (Harris & Smith, 2014, p. 25),
but they may become easier to cope with.

age, withdrawal is common. When it comes to isolation, an individual is less
likely to be depressed if they are comfortable with being alone. Furthermore,
they display “fewer physical symptoms of sadness, and have a greater life
satisfaction” (Hiller & Barrow, 2015, p. 82). Disengagement, “a mutual withdrawal between the elderly and
society to ensure optimal functioning of both the individual and society”
(Hillier & Barrow, 2015, p. 82), is a great escape for aging individuals
who feel as if they are a burden to society or society is a burden to them. They
fear impending death.

the Activity Theory, social engagement is associated with successful aging and life satisfaction. Life satisfaction is most appropriately
defined as “momentary contentment” (Hillier & Barrow, 2015, p. 81).  

Traits, or “the enduring response
patterns that are exhibited by a person in many different contexts” (Hillier
& Barrow, 2015, p. 85), play a key role in the Continuity Theory. They
establish a basis for how one will be able to adapt to changes throughout
their life. According to research, personality development is steady over a

Disengagement Theory is a micro-level analysis because it focuses on the
“individual and their level of social interaction” (Clarke, Marshall, House,
& Lantz, 2011, p. 1287). This theory concentrates on how isolation
influences an individual’s life.

Activity Theory is a micro-level analysis because it focuses on the
“individual and their level of social interaction” (Clarke, Marshall, House,
& Lantz, 2011, p. 1287).

Continuity Theory is a micro-level analysis because it focuses on the
“individual and their level of social interaction” (Clarke, Marshall, House,
& Lantz, 2011, p. 1287). It is concerned with people on an individual

disengagement, retirees can lighten their roles as individuals and pass them
onto someone else who can handle the pressure. They are relieved of some
stressors and these “trajectories, or sequences of roles and experiences”
(Harris & Smith, 2014, p. 23), can positively influence the life of an
aging individual.

Activity Theory emphasizes motivation, enthusiasm, and logic for individuals.

It “addresses that human aging is very complex and variable – gender,
culture, socioeconomic status” (Hillier & Barrow, 2015, p. 81), and
biological makeup.

continuity, people can make decisions based on previous experiences. They
will experience less worry when they are presented with life challenges.

for the Disengagement Theory seems limited for a couple of reasons. 1) Society
seems to pressure people into withdrawing, yet elders are usually held
responsible for disengaging. Society seems to shun older people because they do
not believe in their dwindled capabilities or skills. 2) Though some people
choose to disengage, others do not. This theory is somewhat inaccurate
because it does not pertain to everyone. 3) This theory dissuades society to assist
elders in being active. 4) Disengagement may be out of someone’s control
(e.g. poverty or sickness).

seek different lifestyles. “Activities may or may not enable people to confirm
their identity and participate in roles they highly value” (Hillier &
Barrow, 2015, p. 81). Some may prefer a more easy-going lifestyle, and others
may prefer to be heavily socially engaged. Because aging individuals are
pushed to disengage, “committing to new goals may seem unnecessary to them”
(Hillier & Barrow, 2015, p. 81).

Continuity Theory may imply that people are not capable of adapting. They may
seem stuck with their “-re-determined” behavior, and personality. But, on
another note, some people can switch certain behaviors on and off depending
on the context of their environment (e.g. the way one acts with their family versus
the way they act in front of their in-laws).