Baby Boomers Embrace Activity Theory of Aging

By: Jody Smith

A theory of aging that was published in the Journal of Gerontology seems to have become one of the accepted perspectives concerning seniors and their place in American culture. The study "An Exploration of the Activity Theory of Aging" was published in 1972 by Lemon, Bengston and Peterson. The ramifications of this theory were discussed in an article on

The viewpoint of this study indicated that as people get older, well past middle age, their sense of who they are personally and in relation to the outside world inevitably undergoes a transformation. A crossroads is reached by everyone past a certain age -- for instance, baby boomers and beyond -- and each individual will essentially choose to either become or remain actively involved with the world around them, or they will decide to withdraw.

As some life roles are lost due to the aging process, great benefit can be gained by seniors who embark on activities that have meaning for them.

Life will tend to be healthier and longer, with higher quality and satisfaction of life, for those who consciously decide to engage with others. Specifically, people who interact with groups and causes that have special meaning for them will particularly benefit in terms of health and satisfaction.

Individuals may streamline the number of activities and causes, so that there may be fewer of them, but these will be of special personal importance. Life that is outward-directed and passion-driven is most likely to be a long and healthy life.

What might constitute meaningful activity? As with any other age group, what gives meaning will vary from one individual to the next. One person might find involvement in their church to offer great satisfaction. Another might throw themselves into interaction in their neighborhood. Yet another might take classes that interest them, and someone else might delight in family relationships.

For some seniors, this time of life will offer a real opportunity to finally shed work responsibilities that were necessary for many years in order to make a living and provide for their families. It can be an open door to focusing for the first time on their own interests. The next step for them might be to take an interest which could only be a hobby while they were in the work force, for instance photography or needlework, and pursue it in ways that may or may not involve earning money, but which most definitely will involve personal growth and satisfaction.

Some seniors will head for the local town hall, and may champion causes in their communities. Volunteer work is another avenue many seniors head for when their time becomes more their own.




Gerontology, Age Stratification and New fields of Inquiry.

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