Gerotranscendence: A Developmental Theory of Positive Aging

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Springer Publishing Company, Jun 20, 2005 - Social Science - 224 pages
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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.

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6 Conclusions and Summary
Suggested Exercises for Personal Development

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About the author (2005)

Lars Tornstam, PhD, is a pioneer of Swedish social gerontology, who wrote the first Swedish doctoral thesis within the field of gerontological sociology back in 1973. At Uppsala University he launched the first Swedish academic courses in gerontology and did the same in Denmark during a five year stay as adjunct professor of social gerontology at the University of Copenhagen. He has also been one of the leaders of a Swedish nation-wide, cross faculty, research program Elderly in society - Past, present and in the future, where he himself focused his research on empirical studies of what today is labeled ageism.

Dr. Tornstam is now holding the first Swedish chair in social gerontology at Uppsala University, where he is the leader of The Social Gerontology Group. The wide range of research activities of this group are described in detail at the award winning web site:

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