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Theories of Aging in Social Sciences

Commentary and Analysis

By studying sociological theories of aging, one can discover many important aspects of personality and society, taking into account each person’s many years of experience. The process is associated with many determinants which impact health and is studied in empirical research. Although, at first scientific theories were based on the most classical theories of functionalism or, for example, constructivism, further research showed a more versatile and multi-criteria nature of the problem (Bengtson & Settersten Jr, 2016). By adapting theories to current realities and modern contexts, issues such as retirement include issues of changing work culture. The dynamics of technological development dictate the conditions for constant updating of theories, which are becoming more and more complex. For an adequate assessment and more excellent coverage of all aspects of this issue, the authors resort to a multilevel classification, highlighting the institutional, organizational, and personal levels of theories (Bengtson & Settersten Jr, 2016). However, at the same time, work and retirement are only one of the social aspects that determine the aging process.

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Relations between generations and the opportunity to meet old age in the family are hot social issues. The family is a complex system of relationships and values ​​of a small community, subject to a particular set of rules dictated by society, culture, and morality (Bengtson & Settersten Jr, 2016). In this regard, the main direction in theoretical development is the concept of the ambivalence of relations within the family, allowing the possibility of conflict on a par with solidarity (Bengtson & Settersten Jr, 2016). Theories are increasingly moving beyond the study of intergenerational interactions, as there is some influence on the aging process, for example, by grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Finally, the environment itself is a determinant of the aging process. An adult is usually a mature person and may have different civic attitudes and views. Consequently, social injustice and incidents of discrimination in a society in which an adult is involved can cause a corresponding reaction (Bengtson & Settersten Jr, 2016). Sociologists identify theories that have significance in broader social aspects of each individual’s health. They aim to identify cognitive, emotional, and behavioral factors that positively affect health; or seek resources to prevent destructive reactions (Bengtson & Settersten Jr, 2016). An important determinant, in this case, is the presence of mechanisms of social integration for older people, which allow them to serve society to the best of their ability.

Health is generally the dependent variable in research. Aging programs are now moving beyond the static study of the object of study: the dynamics of maturation and factors such as the length of education can be independent variables in research (Bengtson & Settersten Jr, 2016). The level of economic wealth throughout life, and problems in this matter, which are often accompanied by social conflicts in society, lead to theories of inequality in aging. They argue that many of these factors create unique conditions for each person under which the aging process occurs. Here, the most promising are medical, clinical, and genomic research.

Finally, research will require a scientific interpretation that has a solid foundation. This basis is symbolic interactionism, namely, the essence of interpreting the results of human interaction. The advantage of these approaches is to consider the dynamics of the aging process in the context of various institutions and highlight micro and macro levels for an integrated approach (Bengtson & Settersten Jr, 2016). An attempt to go beyond individuality and classify at least the causes and consequences of the aging process should be undertaken comprehensively, taking into account individual aspects of each of the theories voiced here.


The process of retirement, as well as the history of the formation of wage substitution and related deductions, have been formed over the years. The transition from an understanding of economic vulnerability to a complexly structured pension benefit system was not easy and included both conflicting and controversial decisions, as well as logical ones, in terms of progress and the market (Bengtson & Settersten Jr, 2016). The question, which raises doubts and requires improvement, sounds like this: why did the social mechanisms of adaptation and integration of older people into socially valuable activities not develop at the same level? There are almost certainly many active older adults whose health allows them to carry out various activities. Many of these people need constant socialization; otherwise, they become painful and vulnerable (Bengtson & Settersten Jr, 2016). Consequently, if the pension system has been forming for decades, keeping pace with progress, then the same level of the problem of integration into society is not observed. Perhaps the problem of economic vulnerability was of greater weight and importance, but social adaptation also has an economic characteristic – an additional labor force for the good of society, which allows it to develop. Even at the theoretical level, these issues are poorly covered, although, in addition to economic benefits, such integration can have positive dynamics for health, family problems, and an additional field of scientific research.


Bengtson, V. L., & Settersten Jr, R. (Eds.). (2016). Handbook of theories of aging. Springer Publishing Company.

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