The disengagement theory of adaptation in the aging process developed by Cumming and Henry (1961) is challenged. It is suggested that the withdrawal phenomenon exhibited by the elderly simply reflects reduced environmental opportunities for social interaction. Despite a reduced social
sphere and the prevailing negative attitudes of old age, the vast majority of the elderly make a satisfactory adjustment to their later years and are happy. Interpersonal intimacy is viewed as the key to satisfactory adjustment. A longitudinal developmental approach to the development of intimacy
in the elderly is presented.