The adult life cycle of aging has three distinct stages namely; young adult life, middle stage and late life stage respectively. In this paper our major concern is on the late stage on adulthood. Social theories such as activity theory, disengagement theory, exchange theory, continuity theory and gerotranscendence theory each in their own unique way expound on the later life aging. Longitudinal studies on aging seek to understand various aspects related to aging in an effort to promote successful aging. Innumerable relationships exist between certain characteristics in a stage of life and personality.
In young adulthood stage of life cycle, individuals seek companionship as well as love. Relationships created may result into marriages. Today's families commence in the late thirties of a couples life. Intimacy or isolation may result in this stage depending on the success and satisfaction of the relationships created. This stage runs from 18- 35 years. The next stage occurs through 35-55 or 65 years is known as the middle adulthood .Work is vital and is accompanied by intense creativity. One becomes responsible and in charge. The aim is to transmit cultural values and create stability in the family environment. Generativity which leads to a better society strengthens an individual. Stagnation may result if one is not successful in this stage.
The family, community as well as the place of work forms the most significant areas of relationships in this stage. In late adulthood, a feeling of integrity or despair may arise depending on how fulfilled or happy an individual feels. Whether an individual has found meaning or purpose in life contributes greatly to what feelings engulf them. In this stage people hold with utmost importance their relationship with other people. This stage is between 55 or 65 to death (Harder, 2009).
According to Bengtson et al (2009) activity theory is one of the social theories that explain aging in late adulthood. Withdrawal by the social world from people who are old leads to difficulties in the fulfillment of social needs. Staying active helps an individual remain in the social world thus avoiding withdrawal. The ability to resist withdrawal leads to a well adjusted old adulthood which is also satisfying. Disengagement theory is seen as the opposite of the activity theory. For equilibrium to be maintained then disengagement is inevitable in all social systems. This is because disengagement is a prerequisite in order to achieve a stable society.
Continuity theory explains preservation efforts of ties by individuals to maintain past experiences. Continuity may be internal or external. Memory which is tied to an inner structure of remembrance is required for internal continuity. Memory of the social as well as physical environment is necessary for external continuity. Other people's expectations motivate the old towards external continuity. Gerotranscendence theory seeks to explain a shift to cosmic view of the world from a rational one.
In natural progression gerotranscendence is the final stage towards maturation a developmental pattern. An individual is choosy of social activities and more detached to material things in this stage. This parallels disengagement theory. The exchange theory explains the problems related to aging. There exists an imbalance between older persons and other persons during interactions. This is brought about by decreasing power recourses due to old age.
Research on aging by Baltimore is an observational study that is multidisciplinary. The aging aspects looked into are physiological and psychological. The research has been carried out since 1958 in Baltimore. Healthy volunteers make up the population of the study. Their ages are also different and evaluations are done over a period of time. Data collection and analysis is done by scientists through consultations.Characterising of pathological and normal aging is their key aim. Inability to sustain stress, disease susceptibility is frailty related to age. Physiological systems are affected and this mainly occurs in older persons.
Maas kuypers study seeks answers to questions such as what are the attributes of successful aging, pathological aging determinants and causes of cognitive deficits related to age Individuals aged 24 to 81 years and nearly 1900 in number are used in this study.Psychosocio and biomedical are the aspects included in the research. Potentially life events are stressful as viewed by Maas and Kuypers. New growth and positive readjustment may typically result. Cultural, psychological social and physical components relate to aging as evidenced from gerontology, developmental psychology nursing and sociology. Despite the evidence from all this fields, aging for women is yet to be understood. This is in relation to women with childhood disabilities (Harrison, 2003).
The work of Elder and Liker (Hillier & Barrow, 2006) on how the life-span of children and adolescents progresses provided great insight into the understanding of the relationship between historical events and personality in childhood days as well as adulthood. The longitudinal study carried out by Elder and Liker demonstrated that the perspectives of ones life-span provide unique opportunities to integrating trans-disciplinary efforts. Thus historical events such as the great depression have profound impacts on ones personality in their adulthood. Nevertheless, the aging people have to develop coping strategies.
Adulthood has three distinct considerations each unique in its own ways. Each consideration is seen to link to the next as an individual ages. The various theories explored give clear understanding on the different interpretations of this stage of life and its connectivity with the previous stage if at all any. Longitudinal studies so far discussed seek to suggest better understanding of successful aging process and factors influencing adulthood.