Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Aging and Public Health

pp 233-235

The Continuity Theory of Aging

  • Jessica Diggs

The continuity theory of aging states that “in making adaptive choices middle‐aged and older adults attempt to preserve and maintain existing psychological and social patterns by applying familiar knowledge, skills, and strategies.” George Maddox was the first researcher to use the idea of continuity to describe the behavior of aging individuals in 1968 when he observed that people tended to engage in similar activities and to continue familiar lifestyle patterns as they age; however, the continuity theory of aging was not introduced until 1989. Robert Atchley is credited with the development of this theory. Continuity theory takes a life course perspective in which the aging process is shaped by history, culture, and social constructs. According to this theory, continuity in aging is seen as a dynamic and evolutionary developmental process in which individuals grow, adapt, and change; however, these changes are consistent with the person's underlying ideology and past experiences. The ...

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