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SKU# 9780826131348

A Developmental Theory of Positive Aging

Author: Lars Tornstam PhD


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Given the 2006 GREAT GERONTOLOGY AWARD for outstanding contribution to gerontological research by the Swedish Gerontological Society

Received a VALUE GROUND AWARD from the journal Aldreomsorg (Old Age Care)

Expanding upon his earlier writings, Dr. Tornstam's latest book explores the need for new theories in gerontology and sets the stage for the development of his theory of gerotranscendence. This theory was developed to address what the author sees as a perpetual mismatch between present theories in social gerontology and existing empirical data.

The development towards gerotranscendence can involve some overlooked developmental changes that are related to increased life satisfaction, as self-described by individuals. The gerotranscendent individual typically experiences a redefinition of the Self and of relationships to others and a new understanding of fundamental existential questions:

  • The individual becomes less self-occupied and at the same time more selective in the choice of social and other activities.
  • There is an increased feeling of affinity with past generations and a decreased interest in superfluous social interaction.
  • The individual might also experience a decrease in interest in material things and a greater need for solitary "meditation." Positive solitude becomes more important.
  • There is also often a feeling of cosmic communion with the spirit of the universe, and a redefinition of time, space, life and death.

Gerotranscendence does NOT imply any state of withdrawal or disengagement, as sometimes erroneously believed. It is not the old disengagement theory in new disguise. Rather, it is a theory that describes a developmental pattern beyond the old dualism of activity and disengagement.

The author supports his theory with insightful qualitative in-depth interviews with older persons and quantitative studies. In addition, Tornstam illustrates the practical implications of the theory of gerotranscendence for professionals working with older adults in care settings. A useful Appendix contains suggestions of how to facilitate personal development toward gerotranscendence.

Product Details 

  • Publication Date June 20, 2005
  • Page Count 224
  • Product Form Hardback
  • ISBN 13 9780826131348
  • EISBN 9780826131355

Online Supplements 

Want to learn more about the theory of geotranscendence and author Lars Tornstam? Visit Dr. Tornstam's web page on the Uppsala University Department of Sociology site.

Table of Contents 

The Need for New Theories in Social Gerontology
The Root of the Misery Perspective
Myths Within Gerontology
The “Retirement Trauma”
The Scientific Paradigm of Gerontology
The Absolute Order of Things
The Function of Myths Within Science
Bursting the Borders
Origin of the Theory and First Outline
The Paradigmatic Context of the Disengagement Theory and Its Counter Theories
Experimental Thinking with an Alternative Meta-Theoretical Paradigm
Obstructions in the Process Towards Gerotranscendence
The Qualitative Content of Gerotranscendence
Gerotranscendence and Its Opposite
The Cosmic Dimension of Gerotranscendence
The Self Dimension of Gerotranscendence
The Social and Personal Relationships Dimension of Gerotranscendence
Obstacles and Shortcuts on the Path to Gerotranscendence
The Signs of Gerotranscendence
A Development Beyond Both Disengagement and Ego Integrity
Quantitative Empirical Elucidations
Gerotranscendence Development in Retrospect
Gerotranscendence in a Cross Sectional Perspective
Focusing the 65+
Life Crises and Gerotranscendence
The Functions of Reminiscence on Gerotranscendence
Gerotranscendence in Practice
Nursing Staff’s Interpretations of Gerotranscendence Related Behavior
The Impact of the Theory on Nursing Staff
Practical Guide Lines for Staff Members
Introducing Guidelines in a Nursing Home Environment
Conclusive Summary
Appendix: Suggested Exercises for Personal Development