Theoretical Perspective on Aging essay

The issues relate to the process of aging has been as urgent as never. With the technological advance the process of aging is nowadays re-assessed as more people turn to use the techniques that let them stay young as long as possible. Yet, the sociological perceptions towards aging remain to be controversial one. The presented paper aims to research on the three basic approaches towards aging, including the continuity theory, the symbolling interactionism and the theory of labelling. Its goal is to determine the key factors of the theories; their advantages and disadvantages as well as similarities and differences. Finally, it provides a comparison of the modern approaches to aging with the ones mentioned above.

The major aspects of the theories chosen

Basically, three approaches towards aging are considered to be the conservative ones. The first is named "symbolic interaction theory" and it regards age as a socially constructed concept that is frequently determined or allied to the symbols that mean age. The theory is based on the ideas of George H. Mead, Charles H. Cooley, and W. I. Thomas. Recognizing that the aging is a biological process inherent for all human beings, the meaning of being old or young is determined by the concrete society where the person lives. In other words, it refers to the connotations that surround the concept of aging . Thus, the idea of aging depends rather on the perceptions of the society than on the person. Bearing this in mind, it should be stressed that due to the various interpretations of aging different communities define the ways of behavior for the elders in a different ways.

Another theory that approaches age is labelling. The hypothesis itself is often applied to the criminal activities or deviances; yet, it holds its own vision of the aging process. Thus, the supporters of this theory assert that old age is a deviant condition. Thus, frequently elders perceive themselves in a negative way and are the victims of the stereotypes existing within a society. This theory provides the concept of age with the shade of deviancies that needs to be improved while symbolic interactionists simply state that age is constructed by the society. The labelling theory provides that elders turn to form a group that is rather homogeneous and labelled by false stereotypes.

Finally, the theory of continuity suggests that the essential characteristics of the personality become more identifiable with age or they are affected by little changes. Thus, the age helps to stress on the features of the person and helps to enhance them. Therefore, the person ages successfully if he or she remains faithful to his or her role and the adaption techniques throughout the entire life. The supporters of this theory view aging as the biological process that is rather affects humans in a positive ways. They divide aging into several stages asserting that each of them prepare a person for the future. Thus, on the contrary to the previous theories, age is approached in a more tolerated way and no connections between the society and individual could be traced.

The similarities or differences in the theories and the aspects of the theories set them apart from other theories

First of all, it should be noted that the aging is considered a natural biological process in accordance with all theories. However, whereas symbolic interactionists and the supporters of a labelling theory suggest that the aging is defined basically by social norms and interactions, the supporters of the continuity theory stress that the aging is a concept that is defined by the person solely. It means that, in the first case the perception of aging depends severely on public opinion and is born as a result of the social interactions the individual experiences during his or her life. In continuity theory the aging is perceived as concept that depends rather on the sets of the values, ideas and believes that the person has had during his or her entire life.

The advantages and drawbacks of the theoretical approaches towards aging

The key advantages of the continuity theory include its approach towards the ability of the individual to preserve the same behavior, features and values over the course of years. In other words, it advocates the capability of the individual to remain a unique creature despite the challenges or hardships he or she faces. It has no connotations with the society the person lives in. Instead, it is stressed that the person decides on its own what is considered to be appropriate for him or her. The so-called internal structures contribute to the preservation of the constants over lifetime and to the passage of the decisions that really corresponds to their interests. The external structures preserve table self-concepts in regard to the relations with the others and the social roles of the individual. At the same time, the theory is criticized severely for drawing the line between the pathological and normal aging. It is stressed that such a division does not count the people who suffer from the chronic diseases. Additionally, it is rather hard to prove and test this theory in regard to the life situation.

Symbolic interactionists assert that the changes which are tied to aging have no inherent meaning. They stress that the nature of this process does not lead to the structural changes or to the alterations of values. Basically, the person remains to be the same. However, the attitude towards elders is different within the society. Thus, it is stressed that the perceptions of self depends significantly on the society's perception of aging process and old people. It establishes a direct link between the features of the person, its life, and emotions. Thus, the concept of aging in one's mind is shaped by the person which is the greatest disadvantage of this theory.

As has been stressed, the labelling theory relates to the symbolic interactionism. However, the concept of age is definitely negatively perceived within this theory. It establishes a negative connotation between certain perceptions and ideas of age as a state of mind or body that is deviant for the society. Additionally, it is stressed that under this theory the society "'labels" the elders, e.g. associates a set of features or characteristics with the old age. For example, if one sees an old person he or she might suggest that he has certain problems with health, eyes or hearing capabilities, which is not necessarily inherent for every old person. The disadvantage is that such a labelling leads to the equaling of all elders and disregard of any particularities they might have. On the other hand, such an approach towards aging helps to identify certain features which are indeed inherent for elders. The identification of such characteristics might be then used in the process of creation of the programs addressing the needs of the elders.

How these theories relate to the current approaches to aging

Comparing three approaches to age discussed to the modern ones above it should be stressed that the latter explain aging in terms of biology. Thus, programmed theory considers that aging occurs as a result of switching on or off some genes. Endocrine theory supposes that the biological clock while being affected by the hormones causes certain changes in the organism. Disengagement theory provides that aging is an inevitable process that causes the changes in relations. It stresses that that the relations between the individual and other members of society are severed and those that survive these crucial moments become the ones of the highest quality. It basically correlates to the continuity theory that suggests that the person remains loyal to certain things, friends, and behavioral patterns over the course of the years. The activity theory supposes that if the person remains to be socially active then the retirement is not so harmful for the person. This theory might be linked to the symbolic interactionism as it provides that the attitude towards the aging develops during social interactions of the individual.


In conclusion, it should be noted that whereas symbolic interactionism and labeling provide relatively similar approaches towards the aging, the continuity theory provides an innovative view on the issue. Yet, all these theories are somehow reflected in the modern theories explaining aging processes.

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Theoretical Perspective on Aging essay

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