Are older people happier if they are allowed to disengage from society?
No. This view is based upon an early theory called "disengagement theory" which said that it is normal and expectable that the older person and society withdraw from each other so as to minimize the disruption caused by the older person's death. Although many people obviously do scale back certain activities, particularly if health deteriorates, there is substantial evidence that many who remain active and engaged have higher levels of function and happiness. For many, staying involved physically, cognitively, socially, and spiritually in the social group is a basis for happiness.
Linda Breytspraak, Center on Aging Studies, University of Missouri-Kansas City
Last update: Monday, July 07, 2008