Encyclopedia of Gerontology and Population Aging

Living Edition
| Editors: Danan Gu, Matthew E. Dupre

Disengagement Theory

  • Xin ZhangEmail author
  • Hongmei Lin
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-69892-2_645-1



Disengagement theory postulates that people gradually disengaged from social life as they grow older, which was originally proposed by social scientist Elaine Cumming and colleagues in 1960, and later in 1961, Cumming and Henry systematize this theory into the book – Growing Old – arguing that aging is an inevitable, mutual withdrawal. The theory was based on a longitudinal study conducted by scholars from the University of Chicago, which observed and followed 211 adults between the ages of 50 and 90 in Kansas City. The result found that growing old is not a cheerful time in which granny keeps an eye on the children while basking on the balcony instead of having meetings in the office, suggesting that older adults gradually fade away from the social system where they have played an important role in adulthood.

At the individual level,...

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Psychological and Cognitive SciencesPeking UniversityBeijingChina

Section editors and affiliations

  • Danan Gu
    • 1
  1. 1.Population Division, Department of Economic and Social AffairsUnited NationsNew YorkUSA