Gerotranscendence Theory

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The theory of gerotranscendence is a developmental theory of positive aging that was

first proposed by Lars Tornstam in 1989. Gerotranscendence was Tornstam’s response to the

mismatch between current theories and statistics (Tornstam, 2011). Tornstam used both

qualitative and quantitative research methods. He performed in-depth interviews with 50 older

adults, conducted two large postal surveys to collect data, and many other studies. The first large

survey included participants aged 74-100. The second was a cross sectional study with adults

ages 20-85 to describe the level of gerotranscendence at different age levels. Tornstam also

based his theory of gerotranscendence on former theory by Jung and Erikson, Gutman, Peck,

Chinen, Chapman,
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Primary assumptions and descriptions

Aging is a global issue because of the influx of older adults into the population scheme.

In fact, on January 1, 2011 the first 10,000 baby boomers entered retirement age (Age 65) and

will continue to do so for about the next 19 years (Cohn & Taylor, 2010). The impact of aging, to

both the individual who is actually growing old, to caregivers, and to society at large is being felt

on all fronts-economically, socially, health care wise, demographically, and politically.

Gerotranscendence is a developmental theory and a positive aging theory which is very different

from other psychosocial theories of aging. (Wadensten, 2007). Most other theories on aging

approach it from a middle age perspective and, in one form or another, build on what the

individual was doing during middle age. (This is discussed later in the paper)

“Gerotranscendence implies a shift in meta-perspective, from a materialistic and rational view of


the world to a more cosmic and transcendent one, normally accompanied by an increase in life

satisfaction” (Tornstam, 2011). The theory of gerotranscendence explains aging from
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Tornstam does note that not all older adults who develop

in the direction of gerotranscendence show all of the three signs (Tornstam, 2011).


Difference with other theories

A major difference from other theories that should be noted is gerotranscendence does

not form a basis in middle-age reality and lifestyle as many theories do. Havinghurt’s (1953)

activity theory suggested continuing the middle age lifestyle as long as possible. The continuity

theory (Haven, 1968) maintains that personality and basic patterns of behavior do not change.

Erikson’s psychodynamic theory of human development states the individual is looking back at

life from within the same self. Gerotranscendence older adults look back from a new/forward

looking view of the self and the world (Wadensten, 2007) (Tornstam, 2011). This new view is a

looking forward style of thinking and allows the older adult to even re-evaluate events from the

past and place a new perspective on them. It allows oneself to continue the developmental

process and become a fully matured individual (Tornstam, 2011).


The theory of gerotranscendence is a developmental process that presents a positive

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