Chapter 3:
Theories of Aging
Learning Objectives
Identify the major theories of aging.
Compare the similarities and differences
between biological and psychosocial
Describe the process of aging using a
biological and a psychosocial perspective.
Learning Objectives (cont’d)
Analyze the rationale for using multiple
theories of aging to describe the complex
phenomenon of aging.
Describe a general theoretical framework,
taken from all of the aging theories, which
will assist nurses in making clinical
decisions in gerontology.
Psychosocial Theories of Aging
• Changing roles, relationships, status and
generational cohort impact the older adult’s ability
to adapt. (Table 301, p. 64)
Activity Theory
Disengagement Theory
Continuity Theory
Age Stratification Theory
Person-Environment-Fit Theory
Psychological Theories
• Explain aging in terms of mental processes,
emotions, attitudes, motivation, and
personality development characterized by
life stage transitions (P.65)
Human Needs Theory: five basic needs
Stages of Personality Theory
Life-Course/Life Span Theory
Selective Optimization Theory
Psychological Theories
Erikson’s stages of personality
development for a person that is
76 years old would be:
a) autonomy versus shame
b) integrity versus despair
c) generativity versus isolation
d) trust versus mistrust
Biological Theories of Aging
Stochastic Theories
• Environment and the body’s constant need to
manufacture energy and fuel metabolic activities
cause toxic by-products to accumulate.
• Based on random events that cause cellular
damage, which accumulates as organism ages.
– Free Radical Theory: end product of metabolism
– Orgel/Error Theory
– Wear and Tear Theory
– Connective Tissue Theory
Biological Theories of Aging
Nonstochastic Theories
• Based on genetically programmed events
caused by cellular damage that accelerates
aging of the organism.
Programmed Theory
Gene/Biological Clock Theory
Neuroendocrine Theory
Immunological Theory
Nursing Theories of Aging
• Functional Consequences Theory
– Environmental and biopsychosocial
consequences impact functioning.
• Theory of Thriving
– Failure to thrive caused by discord between the
individual and environment or relationships.
• For older adults with chronic illnesses, stochastic
theories of aging help nurses to better manage
physical illness and conditions
• Psychosocial aging theories help nurses assist
older adults and their families recognize that their
life has been one of integrity and meaning, and
facilitate peaceful death with dignity.
• Aging continues to be explained from multiple
theoretical perspectives, which collectively reveal
that aging is a complex phenomenon still much in
need of research.
When a person who says “the body
just falls apart when it gets old” would
be said to subscribe to which theory of
a)Biologic theory
b)Disengagement theory
c)Continuity theory
d)Developmental theory

Chapter 3: Theories of Aging