Gerotranscendence: A Developmental Theory of Positive Aging / Edition 1

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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.

For Further Information, Please Click Here!

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Editorial Reviews

Doody's Review Service
Reviewer: Susan D. Spooner-Holland, MSN, RN, GNP (Northwestern State University)
Description: This book describes myths regarding aging and provides thought-provoking ideas regarding aging theories.
Purpose: The purpose is to explore developmental patterns of aging. The author begins by discussing current theories and empirical findings together. The qualitative research is discussed as well as practical implications for the theory. The appendix contains exercises to facilitate personal development toward gerotranscendence.
Audience: According to the author, the book was written for all practitioners. Practitioners as well as other readers can derive benefit from reading this book. The author is a nationally known speaker and expert in this field.
Features: The book covers current theories of aging, myths, current research, and the framework for the gerotranscendence theory, a developmental theory of positive aging. I especially appreciate the ease with which one can read and understand the book. The information is delivered in a thought provoking manner and encourages the reader to question ideas they may have about aging.
Assessment: This is a useful tool for the practice of geriatrics. The book provides a basis for further study and encourages readers to grow to understand themselves and older people in a new light.

4 Stars! from Doody
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826131348
  • Publisher: Springer Publishing Company, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 6/20/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 222
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.56 (d)

Meet the Author

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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Read an Excerpt

"Every baby boomer looking for an alternative paradigm to activity theory’s ’energetic aging’ in later life and its projected treadmill of trips to the personal trainer and plastic surgeon, sky diving lessons, and updates from the skbroker, should read this book. Gerotranscendence represents a shift in meta-perspective, from a materialistic and pragmatic view of the world to a more cosmic and transcendent one.

Easily read, Tornstam’s book is choc full of fresh insight and substantial evidence, supporting his convincing argument that gerontologists have, for too long, circled their wagons around one theory of aging (activity theory) with too little attention to the ‘subjects’ of their enquiries—older people themselves—in all their diversity and abundance of unique personal experiences of growing older.

We live in a post-modern time where identities are seen as fragile, shifting, multiple and transitory and where all truth is localised. Tornstam produces an inclusive, developmental approach to growing older that invites gerontologists (as well as the rest of us) to reconsider aging from an array of perspectives in this increasingly multicultural, multifaceted, interactive world. His theory flies in the face of more commonly invoked theories of aging, particularly activity theory, allowing manifold images of later life to materialize from reality and an emergence of the importance of individual meaning to describe phenomena.

There is a spirituality in Tornstam’s approach—that part of the person concerned with meaning, truth, purpose or reality and the ultimate significance of things—and one that I find refreshingly engaging. Perhaps the last 40 years or so of getting granny out of the chair and into a hang glider has been at cross purposes to not only what granny wants, but also what nature/the gods/her muse encourage her to do. Tornstam provides an alternative way to see the world—“a theoretical tool that makes certain parts of reality comprehensible."

—-Kip Jones, PhD, MSc Honorary Research Fellow, Mary Seacole Research Centre, De Montfort University Leicester, England UK

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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

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