Models of the Life-Span for an Ageing Society

  • Rosemary Leonard
  • Ailsa Burns


The panic surrounding the “greying” of western societies reflects an unnecessarily negative view of older people. This paper examines how models of the life-span can either encourage panic or assist us to construct a society with a positive attitude to the contribution of its older people. The paper contrasts “rise and fall” models, which include most physiological and cognitive theories, with “progress” models such as stage or life course theories. In particular it is argued that life course approaches with the addition of a political-economy perspective are promising in that they reposition older people individually and collectively as active contributing creators of their own quality of life.


Ageing Society Moral Imperative Stage Theory Life Space Political Economy Model 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Arber, S. Ginn, J. (1995). Connecting gender and ageing. Buckingham: Open University Press. Augoustinos, M. Walker, I. (1995). Social cognition: An integrated introduction. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  2. Brandstadter, J. Greve, R. (1994). The aging self: Stabilising the protective processes. Developmental Review, 14, 52–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Carstensen, L. (1992). Social and emotional patterns in adulthood: Support for socio-emotional selectivity theory. Psychology and Aging, 7, 331–338.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Clare, R. and Tulpule, A. (1994). Australia’s ageing society. EPAC Background Paper No 37, Economic Planning and Advisory Council, Canberra.Google Scholar
  5. Dannefer, D. (1984). Adult development and social theory: A paradigmatic reappraisal. American Sociological Review, 49, 100–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Erikson, E.H. (1980). Identity and the life cycle. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  7. Estes, C.L. (1991). The new political economy of aging: Introduction and critique. In M. Minkler C.L. Estes (Eds) Critical perspectives on aging: The political and moral economy of growing old. New York: Baywood.Google Scholar
  8. Gergen, M. (1990). Finished at 40: Women’s development within the patriarchy. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 14, 471–493.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Harré, R. (1983). Personal being. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  10. Hassan, A. B. Bar-Yam, M. (1987). Interpersonal development across the life span: Communion and its interaction with agency in psychological development. Contributions to Human Development, 18, 102–128.Google Scholar
  11. Helson R. Picano, J. (1990). Is the traditional role bad for women? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59, 311–320.Google Scholar
  12. Hockey, J. James, A. (1993). Growing up and growing old: Ageing and dependency in the life course. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  13. Leonard, R. (1999). Empowerment through the life course approach. In Onyx, J. Leonard, R. Reed, R. (Eds) Revisioning aging: The empowerment of older women. New York: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  14. Levinson, D.J, Darrow, C.N., Levinson, M.H., McKee, B. (1978). The seasons of a man’s life. New York: Knopf.Google Scholar
  15. Luszcz, M. (1999). Ageing: Cognitive and developmental perspectives. Keynote address to 34th Annual Conference of the Australian Psychological Society, Hobart, October.Google Scholar
  16. McAdams, D.P. (1985). Power, intimacy, and the life story. Homewood, Illinios: The Dorsey Press. McCallum, J. Geiselhart, K. (1996). Australia’s new aged. Sydney: Allen Unwin.Google Scholar
  17. Neugarten, B. (1977). Personality and aging. In J.Birren K.W. Schaie (Eds) Handbook of the psychology of aging (pp. 626–49 ). New York: Van Nostrand-Reinhold.Google Scholar
  18. Reker, G. Wong, P. (1988). Aging as an individual process: Towards a theory of personal meaning. In J. Birren V. Bengston (Eds.) Emergent theories of aging (pp. 214–46 ). New York: SpringerGoogle Scholar
  19. Richards, M.. Larson, R. (1989). The life space and socialization of the self: Sex differences in the young adolescent. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 18(6), 617–626.Google Scholar
  20. Russell, C. Schofield, T. (1986). Where it hurts: A sociology of health for health workers. Sydney: Allen Unwin.Google Scholar
  21. Ryff, C. (1982). Self-perceived change in adulthood and aging. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 42, 108–15.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Sargent, M. (1999). Not gerontology, but -. In Onyx, J., Leonard, R. Reed, R. (Eds) Revisioning aging: The empowerment of older women. New York: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  23. Sloan, T. (1999). Ideology critique in theory and practice. Paper presented at the International Society for Theoretical Psychology Conference, Sydney, April.Google Scholar
  24. Stewart, A.J. Malley, J.E. (1989). Case studies of agency and communion in women’s lives. In R.K. Urger (Ed.) Representations: Social constructions of gender. Amityville, NY: Baywood Publishing Co.Google Scholar
  25. Valsiner, J. (1985). The role of the individual subject in scientific psychology. New York: Plenum.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rosemary Leonard
    • 1
  • Ailsa Burns
    • 2
  1. 1.University of Western SydneyNepeanCanada
  2. 2.Macquarie UniversityAustralia

Personalised recommendations