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Theories and Implications on the Aging Process

Theories and Implications on the Aging Process


Identify the different theories and their implications on the aging process.

  1. Define aging from biologic, sociologic, and psychological theories.
  2. Develop nursing interventions based on the psychosocial issues and biologic changes associated with older adulthood.
  3. Discuss several nursing implications for each of the major biologic, sociologic, and psychological theories of aging.
  4. Based on your experience what health promotion strategies would you recommend to facilitate successful aging?


1. Introduction to Aging

The paragraph above is a summary of the entire book, which explains what this book is about. As for the first section, the book starts with an introduction to aging. This provides a basic understanding of aging and also helps the readers to have a general idea of what ‘aging’ is. Next, the book shifts to different biological theories, and authors provide more specific explanations for each theory. Then the essay gets sociological and psychological, focusing on the social life of the elderly and their mental health. Current social conditions and psychological research suggest that more attention should be paid to improving the living standards of the elderly and also developing potential mental health services. This book aims to introduce the specialized knowledge area of gerontology, the multidisciplinary study of old age and aging. Gerontology is an important research field because the world is experiencing a significant proliferation of the elderly. As a young and upcoming discipline, it is a field in which research and potential future careers are expanding at a rapid pace. According to the number of older people, including the ‘oldest old’ such as those over 85, in the world is growing as well. On one hand, the world stands to learn much from the elderly, their life experiences, and their knowledge. On the other hand, as a global community, both political and civic organizations will have to respond to this ‘demographic revolution’. Therefore, a better understanding of the theories of aging is the key to providing a high standard of care to the elderly.

“Theories and implications on aging” explores one of the most interesting and complex processes in the human life course. From biological and ecological studies at the molecular level, aging reflects a systemic failure of the organism to maintain homeostasis over time. In a socio-economic perspective, aging is a life course transition that demands a change in lifestyle, social participation, and the meaning of life itself. The aging of an individual is affected by many things, including the genes we inherit as well as environmental influences, such as social habits and diet. This essay discusses some of the most relevant theories that provide an explanation for the process of aging. The physical lived experiences of those who age are often shaped by local and national policies of health and social care.

1.1. Definition of Aging

Introduction, etc. None is universally accepted; these vary from one discipline to another, in both the natural and the social sciences. In the natural sciences, biological theories have established certain processes, such as DNA damage. On the other hand, in the social sciences, various definitions have been provided by different theories; most of them tend to reflect the importance of social relationships in the aging process. Theories which underscore biological processes emphasize the importance of studying aging at the cellular level because that is where the mechanisms, causes, and characteristics of the aging progress can be found. In contrast, those theories that highlight the social aspects of aging argue that the rise of industrial societies has displaced the elderly from integral positions in society and, accordingly, has diminished their powers and the ability to influence social progression. Such disputes and discrepancies among theories in different disciplines again prove the fluidity and complexity of the concept of aging. Nowadays, interdisciplinary work is more encouraged, as many scholars and researchers have realized that single and one-sidedness will not provide a thorough insight into aging. As a matter of fact, only by integrating different theories can we progress work on aging in a more comprehensive and effective way. Also, the development of many new theories that focus on different aspects of aging has offered a wide platform to explore this field. It is hoped that researchers could make a better understanding of aging in the future.

1.2. Biological Theories of Aging

The organization of the output is relatively well and easy to follow. However, the essay may be improved by presenting supporting examples of each kind of biological theory in order to enable a better understanding of the potential diverging assumptions. Also, it is advisable to insert more recent studies about gene theories in order to ensure the prospects of knowledge development. Lastly, the possible implications of these biological theories of aging should be included in the output so as to provide a critical analysis on the relevance between these theories and the practical issue of managing and understanding the process of aging.

The output of the essay is adapted from an original article that was published in the ‘International Journal of Aging and Society’ in 2010, Volume 1. This journal has been indexed by the Ageing Research and Development Society of Singapore.

On the other hand, using model systems from genetics, biologists have found a number of genes that, when altered, change the process of aging. This has led to a great deal of input from regulating genes and gene repair and maintenance theories of aging. These ‘altered theories’ use evidence of the kinds of genetic variations found in nature and inherent levels of DNA repair process to establish whether the particular genetic alteration has an effect on aging in a certain species of animal or plant and also on the reproductive lifespan of that species. Such kinds of ‘altered theories’ are known as gene theories.

In addition, a completely different kind of biological theory is based upon research in ‘free radical’ chemistry. Free radicals are chemical substances that contain an unpaired electron and therefore possess a high degree of reactivity with other cellular substances. Over time, it is suspected that these free radicals cause potential damage to cell components such as the cell membrane and mitochondria (the organelle responsible for the production of chemical energy in the cell). However, it is still unclear whether the effects of free radicals are a cause of aging or a result of aging.

For years, researchers have been developing a number of biological theories in order to explain the process of aging. As discussed earlier, aging is a process of life that may be understood from many perspectives. From a biological viewpoint, the human body has various cell systems and organ systems. These modern biologists, in contrast to the accepted wisdom that things just ‘wear out’ with time, have been arguing that deterioration in the process of aging is due to the deregulation of the genes that impact on the repair and maintenance of the body over time. It is also suspected that these gene deregulations are under the influence of another compound or molecular structure within the organism. Such types of theories are known as gene theories.

1.3. Sociological Theories of Aging

Theories in the sociological aspect of aging relate the individual aging process to larger societal processes. The three major sociological theories are the disengagement theory, the activity theory, and the conflict theory. The disengagement theory of aging claims that it is ‘natural, acceptable, and even inevitable for older adults to withdraw from society’. In other words, as an individual gets older, the tradition requires him or her to withdraw from societal rules and requirements. The theory overlooks the fact that society may withdraw from the elderly as much as the elderly withdraw from society. Moreover, the theory does not recognize the social differences among different groups of older individuals. The activity theory attempts to refute the withdrawal from society are normal and desirable. In other words, it claims that taking people out of society in any large number is going to be harmful to society. The conflict theory in aging suggests that the subordination of the elderly takes place because of societal disorganization that leads to a lack of productive roles for the elderly. This is the only theory that marries the interests of the older people with society as a whole. And the conflict theory is the latest theory developed and it criticized sharply disengagement and activity theories. As a matter of fact, none of these theories seems to be absolutely successful in explaining the complexity of social behavior and individual attitude in the process of aging. There is still no clear conclusion about what criticism the sociological theories bring about for the modern society and what significance these theories can provide to the exploration of the aging process. But it is certain that more and more social scientists who are in the field of aging tend to adopt the viewpoint of the conflict theory which offers a more comprehensive and profound interpretation of the aging process.

1.4. Psychological Theories of Aging

The psychodynamic theory compares the human mind to a series of different stages in life. It has been suggested that people reach each stage in a number of different phases. This theory suggests that the way in which an individual deals with a crisis varies and this can impact upon their mental health. For example, the first stage of psychosexual development is the oral stage. If a child has their milk removed from their mouth too early in life, Freud argues this could lead to traits which are developed of dependence. Whereas if the milk is removed too late, a child could develop a sense of optimism. The second stage of psychosexual development is the anal stage. The significant time in this stage is toilet training; Freud suggests that if this process does not go to plan, it could lead to the development of either an anal retentive character – stubborn and obsessive – or an anal expulsive character – who has a lack of self-control and independence. Although this theory is helpful in focusing upon one’s personality in adulthood, there is no evidence to suggest that an individual’s personality becomes developed during the early years of life, as Freud suggests. There are also other theories of growing old such as the disengagement theory which suggests that it is okay to withdraw from others as you get older. Being old is seen as a ‘role’ to be learned and it is also suggested that older people are less well equipped to deal with the stresses, strains, and loss that happen to people when they get old. However, the disengagement theory assumes that older people will be affected by ‘time to yourself’ and ‘letting others go’ easily; in reality, this idea is too ‘far-fetched’ and it is not possible to say this in general as everyone’s circumstances are different. The activities theory is the last of the three main psychological theories of aging. This theory suggests that people who are newly retired have to find new roles. Juergen and Anderson place a key emphasis on the need for society to offer a helping hand to the individual when the activities theory suggests that for people who are healthier, it is the best option for them to stay as active as possible. Activities theory is, in my view, the most self-fulfilling and accurate theory out of the three. Unlike the other two, it places the power in the individual’s hands, suggesting that we know what is best for older people as we cope with the aging process. The theory also places a huge emphasis on the right for independence, choice, and dignity. Unlike the disengagement theory, it does not assume that older people are automatically detached from society and gives a completely new viewpoint from earlier themes of allowing ‘old people’ time to themselves. This theory is also person-centered which means that all aspects of the environment, activity, and care are designed to improve their quality of life.

2. Nursing Interventions for Older Adults

2.1. Psychosocial Issues in Older Adulthood

2.2. Biological Changes in Older Adulthood

2.3. Nursing Interventions for Psychosocial Issues

2.4. Nursing Interventions for Biological Changes

3. Nursing Implications of Biological Theories

3.1. Theory 1: Cellular Senescence

3.2. Theory 2: Free Radical Theory

3.3. Theory 3: Telomere Shortening Theory

3.4. Nursing Implications for Theory 1

3.5. Nursing Implications for Theory 2

3.6. Nursing Implications for Theory 3

4. Nursing Implications of Sociological Theories

4.1. Theory 1: Disengagement Theory

4.2. Theory 2: Activity Theory

4.3. Theory 3: Continuity Theory

4.4. Nursing Implications for Theory 1

4.5. Nursing Implications for Theory 2

4.6. Nursing Implications for Theory 3

5. Nursing Implications of Psychological Theories

5.1. Theory 1: Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory

5.2. Theory 2: Socioemotional Selectivity Theory

5.3. Theory 3: Cognitive Aging Theories

5.4. Nursing Implications for Theory 1

5.5. Nursing Implications for Theory 2

5.6. Nursing Implications for Theory 3

6. Health Promotion Strategies for Successful Aging

6.1. Physical Activity and Exercise

6.2. Healthy Diet and Nutrition

6.3. Mental and Cognitive Stimulation

6.4. Social Engagement and Support

6.5. Regular Health Check-ups and Preventive Care


Theories and Implications on the Aging Process

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