Of all the theories that have been developed, the theory of disengagement generated the most interest (Cumming & Henry, 1961). They also contributed to the development of several models. According to this theory, the number of activities and social roles of individuals decrease, and emotional ties that bind their social worlds lose strength as they grow older. This process of marginalization of the aging person or a smooth difficulties because it is seen as normal and beneficial for both the individual and people around him.
The theory can be summarized as the authors put it, “the theory of disengagement believe that the normal aging process corresponds to a double and reciprocal process which is inevitable. In the first place, the individual withdraws from society. In addition, the society takes gradually takes away from the individual all the social responsibilities which were previously conferred. One manifestation of this disengagement will lower cohesion of the network of social relations in which the aging individual is inserted as retiree. This qualitative change will accompany the quantitative reduction in social interaction taking place between the elderly and society “(Masoro, 2006).
Old age takes its toll on woman as much as men, it is called universal, and that is to say it is characterized by certain regularities in its manifestations, regardless of the periods or societies. The disengagement is inevitable, according to the proponents of the theory, and the individual who is not involved in this process is not spared forever, it is only a matter of time.Third, the intrinsic disengagement is said, that is to say no exclusively conditioned by exogenous factors. Once started, it circular and has a progressive cycle (Hochschild, 2003).
Once known, the theory of disengagement has caused much controversy. Some accuse it of being too universal. There is no only one way to age and events vary from one individual to another. Retirement from work and changing relationships with children has many different forms and meaning.
Other critics attack its deterministic nature. The disengagement is not an inevitable process, they say. Atchley (1971), for example, notes that the withdrawal is closely related to the type and degree commitment of the individual to the various social roles they perform. This concept was coined at the turn of the 1980s and 1990s in terms of the theory of disengagement appeared in the United States in 1961, thirty years earlier in the history of the discipline, but also challenged by various functionalist theory has been crystallized until the mid-1970s in the same country. Inscribed in the logic similar to those of symbolic interactionism and social constructivism, it helps to think in new terms the loss of competence and low self-esteem that is often observed in the elderly aging, phenomena which are in a sense a loss of grip on the world around them, hence the term abandonment.Thus, the concept has been implemented in several branches of sociology order to measure the specific effects of advancing age and its many corollaries, including media sociology, sociology of the family, the sociology of work and sociology of health. It has also been declined by several methods, including "abandonment worried," "abandonment tactics" and "strategic abandonment", which corresponds to three forms of withdrawal from the world identified by sociologists. It has not hitherto attracted strong criticism but not so far managed to do away with the other paradigms and their concepts, even in its home country. During such controversy, a second model, the theory activity, holds the attention.