Old Guys

aging in place

Disengagement theory

Disengagement theory was developed by Cumming and Henry. According to this theory, older adults and society engage in a mutual separation from each other. An example of mutual separation is retirement from the workforce. A key assumption of this theory is that older adults lose “ego-energy” and become increasingly self-absorbed. Additionally, disengagement leads to higher morale maintenance than if older adults try to maintain social involvement. This theory is heavily criticized for having an escape clause – namely, that older adults who remain engaged in society are unsuccessful adjusters to old age.

Gradual withdrawal from society and relationships preserves social equilibrium and promotes self-reflection for elders who are freed from societal roles. It furnishes an orderly means for the transfer of knowledge, capital, and power from the older generation to the young. It makes it possible for society to continue functioning after valuable older members die. Weakness: There is no base of evidence or research to support this theory. Additionally, many older people desire to remain occupied and involved with society. Imposed withdrawal from society may be harmful to elders and society alike. This theory has been largely discounted by gerontologists.

Source: https://courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-sociology/chapter/the-functionalist-perspective-on-aging/

Aging in place

I Posted this on Linkedin to stimulate some conversation:

Old guys need something to fix. Retirement for men has been called “the roleless role” and life without purpose can descend into self-absorption and decline into a pathological emphasis with preoccupation on a newly formed “sick career.” Purpose > pills

Like casting your bait when fishing, I tossed it out and waited for the inevitable bite on the line. Suddenly the bobber began to go up and down then the line sank to the deeps! A gentleman identified as Dean Tucker, 2nd Senior Vice President at Darma Inc. posted this reply:

And just exactly who are we calling “old?” Seems that there are many of any age that suffer from lack of purpose. I, for one, do not see my age. Only my goals….

This kind of response was expected, there were others, but this comment was the one that set the hook…It got the ball rolling.

Randall Williams, MD, 2nd degree connection 2nd Digital Health CEO | Physician Executive | Trusted Adviser | Consultant

Spot on.  Purpose is one of the strongest predictors of longevity.

Dr Williams has been in the field most likely and gets it, he knows rudderless lives often create dis-ease to make life meaningful. This is not healthy, but a byproduct and unintended consequence of a culture that views elders as throw-away.

Diana Deaton 2nd degree connection 2nd Ambassador, Aging2.0 Austin

There are lots of things for old guys (and old gals) to fix around senior living communities.  Put us to work!

Diana’s comment was positive in the right direction. My response to her was this: This is actually a problem with Long Term Care, it’s all done for you…At home there is “Environmental Press” things need to be done. Every form of refuge has its price. And yes, I’m well aware of all the arguments pro/con.

My follow up to Dean Tucker on just who exactly I was calling old.”

BTW “old guys” are ones who have given into stasis. According to your self-described report, that’s not you. I have over 35 years of experience with “old guy” as most health care professionals do. See the MD’s “Spot on Comment” as he will attest to.

But I was expecting this…😉

His reply:

Dean Tucker

I completely understand and agree. And believe we can implement solutions for aging in place to address the continuum of people who are creating the Silver Tsunami. I prefer the term Golden Wave. Non invasive monitoring for people who are at risk combined with physical changes to the living environment does not replace purpose. Creating engagement and encouragement to keep moving and achieving? That is the magic “pill”.

Thanks for the conversation.

My final response

Dean, you have stimulated a good conversation. “Old guy” is at the end of the spectrum once known as “Disengagement Theory.” A predominant gerontology theory that posited that old people (esp. men) disengage with life. The thought was it actually was a noble thing to do because it made way for other generations.

Only problem is that theory should be outdated, society needs “Elders” more than ever to stay engaged. Too many don’t totally disengage in ways the theory hoped, instead they embrace dis-ease and decline and even find meaning in it! That not only uses up limited resources but gives “Aging” a bad name.

There are always exceptions, but we need older people to continue to contribute to society as long as possible. Not in the way they did in middle age, but in ways that honor the process of accumulating experience/wisdom. And we need a societal shift in attitude that was formed by theories like Disengagement. It won’t be for everyone, but a culture that sees elders as a resource will be better for our collective existence.

I felt this conversation was worth sharing and posting here on aginginplace.com

Best, Patrick 


Physiopedia Theories of Ageing

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