Three Theories about How to Age Successfully Free

Encyclopedia of Aging

Three Theories about How to Age Successfully


The concept of successful aging originated in the late 1950s in the United States. Its emergence is associated with the upsurge of new technologies that prolong youth, the increase in life expectancy, and the development of the economy. This topic has been in the hot seat for many decades, and a plethora of scholars have attempted to skillfully analyze and describe so that there can be precisely established theories of how to age successfully. As a result, there are three major theories, which are activity, continuity, and disengagement. Each of them is different due to numerous factors, details, and outcomes. So, let’s take a look at them:

  • The activity theory, also known as the normal theory of aging, states that the process of aging occurs when elderly keeps on being active and sociable no matter what. Social interactions and active lifestyle will undoubtedly make aging easier and more successful. Activity theory reflects the functionalist perspective that the equilibrium that an individual develops in middle age should be maintained in later years (Schulz, 2006). Hence, the activity theory is sort of a balance between liveliness and life satisfaction.
  • The continuity theory claims that seniors will usually maintain the same actions, behavior, relationships, as in the early years of life. According to this theory (2007), such people try to keep this continuity of lifestyle by adapting strategies related to their past experiences. The argument uses a life course perspective to determine normal aging. This type of theory deals with both the internal and external structure of continuity to depict how individuals adapt to their situations and set their goals. The internal structure, such as personality, beliefs, and perspectives remain the same throughout a lifespan, whereas the external structure, such as relationships and social interactions supports the maintenance a stable self-concept and way of life.
  • The disengagement theory corroborates that aging is inevitable, mutual withdrawal or separation, which leads to a decrease in the interaction between an aging person and others in the social system. The theory also states that it is natural and acceptable to leave society for the elderly (Ebersole, 2005). It was the first theory of successful aging that social scientists managed to develop. As a result, this theory has historical essence in gerontology since it has faced criticism due to the proposal of being universal, unidirectional, and innate.


Due to various changes, the attitude towards aging has changed: old age is no longer associated only with death and disease. For many individuals, old age turns out to be a stage of life full of opportunities. Hence, according to personal analysis and point of view, the activity theory seems to be the best in successful aging. It is no question that an active and healthy lifestyle alongside social engagements is prone to increase longevity and enhance the entire aging process. Schulz (2006) concedes that lively spirit and many actions will lead the elderly to more ‘moving’ way of life and motivate them to share their delight and joy with the surroundings. Though the activity theory has faced sharp criticism as a weak and unreliable concept, it seems just right for successful aging. If one takes a look at European couples (e.g., Germany or the Netherlands), one can notice that the majority of seniors prefer an active lifestyle, such as backpacking, walking, swimming, and sports, which also include social involvement. Besides, many seniors find an excellent opportunity to travel to other cities and even countries. Notably, traveling increases the chances of happiness, life satisfaction, and reliving a youthful spirit. Thus it makes everyone believe that activity brings life satisfaction, and it will lead to a more significant result in aging.

When people remain socially active, it encourages them to show that they are not old to just stay in and die in the end. On the same breath, the older people try to find a way to get up and do something engaging so that they will not feel down, depressed, and unwanted. The aging is even easier when there are two people so that can support and lift each other up on a daily basis. Schulz (2006) believes that keeping the balance between mundane and activity is the top priority for successful aging. Accordingly, seniors should dance, go to the park, make a huge picnic, or simply put, go outside and move their bodies. There are, in fact, many seniors who still do morning physical exercises at the age of 75+ which makes them more active and less weak. Inevitably, it is tough to lead a dynamic way of life, but nothing is impossible, and the elderly should not bury themselves before the actual ending of the last chapter. As a rule, activity leads to an increase in the quality of life; consequently, the improvement in the quality of life can lead to health and longevity.


Taking an in-depth consideration of the three main theories of successful aging, namely the activity, continuity, and disengagement theories, one can easily compare all of them to conclude which one is the best. Though many scholars say that each approach somehow overlaps with one another, it would be wrong to disagree with the fact that the activity theory seems the most effective one. Since this concept is based on an active lifestyle, life satisfaction, and social interactions, there is a considerable increase in successful aging. Though the theory faced some strong criticism, it is deemed to be one of the best one, and many sociologists could not agree more. Therefore, all theories are significant, and it is up to every individual to decide which one is prevailing.



Ebersole, P. (2005). Gerontological nursing and healthy aging (2nd edition). Toronto, Canada: Elsevier Health Sciences.

Quadagno, J. (2007). Aging and The Life Course: An Introduction to Social Gerontology (4th edition). McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages.

Schulz, R. et al. (2006). Encyclopedia of Aging (A-K). New York: Springer Publishing Company.

The terms offer and acceptance. (2016, May 17). Retrieved from

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[Accessed: May 24, 2022] (2016) The terms offer and acceptance [Online].
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[Accessed: May 24, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: May 24, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: May 24, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: May 24, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: May 24, 2022]
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