Linking aging theory and disability models: increasing the potential to explore aging with physical impairment

Gerontologist. 2002 Dec;42(6):799-806. doi: 10.1093/geront/42.6.799.


Purpose: Social theories of aging are discussed in relation to their preparedness to address the aging-with-physical impairment phenomenon.

Design and methods: An overview of the social theories of aging is presented. Individual theories of aging are reviewed to examine (a) how they currently depict and/or include disability in their frameworks and (b) how they could be used to explore the experience of aging with physical impairment.

Results: Most social theories of aging do not directly address aging with physical impairment or the cumulative experience of disability over the life course.

Implications: Potential exists for social theories of aging to be applied to the experience of aging with physical impairment. To do so, physical impairment and disability must be clearly operationalized. The author suggests using social models of disability as frameworks in this process and provides examples of how this might be done with current social theories of aging.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Disabled Persons*
  • Humans
  • Models, Psychological
  • Social Support