Lecture 2 – September 18, 2012
- There are unique possibilities for aging, there are not just down sides but there are positives –
we should look at the good things about aging
Key Theories and Concepts in the Sociology of Aging
- How are these concepts linked together?
- Theories help us ask relevant questions and make social predictions
- Two main questions/problems that began at the beginning of sociology:
o Integration – how is it that in society that people are integrated in the social world
Emile Durkheim studying suicides: how is it that people remain integrated in
society? What are the implications of someone that is not integrated?
Do people remain integrated in society as they age?
The concept of a social role
Question: what do people between the ages of 5-18 do for most of their
waking hours, Monday through Friday? School
o Why? Anticipatory socialization, preparing for society
But are there any mechanisms in society that help us leave social roles
Disengagement Theory: an “inevitable and mutual withdrawal” from social
Effectively, this reduces interaction between the aging individual and
others in society
Disengagement assumed to be satisfying to the individual
o Less pressure to fulfill particular roles
o More room to deviate
Disengagement is also assumed to be functional for society
o Have new workers come in and take those roles
Disengagement theory has been widely criticized
o Are people who don’t disengage “unsuccessful dis-engagers”?
o Disengagement can take multiple forms
Not physically enacting a social role – retiring
Psychological disengagement – going to work but not
o What about people who disengage but don’t want to?
Activity Theory: continuing social interaction and maintaining social roles is
necessary to maintain positive self-concept and life satisfication
The more intense the activity it will give you more social roles which
then builds positive self-concept which gives you more life satisfaction
The activity theory is a response to Disengagement Theory
Also has been widely criticized
o Very narrow focus on individual adaptation – broader social
conditions are neglected
o The meaning people attach to activity is important
May not be enjoyable to some people so the meaning
that people have to the activity is important o Social and psychological needs may not be completely stable
Needs may change over time
o Is the causal logic of the theory correct?