Old Age in English History: Past Experiences, Present Issues

Front Cover
Oxford University Press, 2000 - History - 536 pages
At the end of the twentieth century more people are living into their seventies, eighties, nineties and beyond, a process expected to continue well into the next millennium. The twentieth century has achieved what people in other centuries only dreamed of: many can now expect to survive to old age in reasonably good health and can remain active and independent to the end, in contrast to the high death rate, ill health and destitution which affected all ages in the past. Yet this change is generally greeted not with triumph but with alarm. It is assumed that the longer people live, the longer they are ill and dependent, thus burdening a shrinking younger generation with the cost of pensions and health care. It is also widely believed that 'the past' saw few survivors into old age and these could be supported by their families without involving the taxpayer. In this first survey of old age throughout English history, these assumptions are challenged. Vivid pictures aregiven of the ways in which very large numbers of older people lived often vigorous and independent lives over many centuries. The book argues that old people have always been highly visible in English communities, and concludes that as people live longer due to the benefits of the rise in living standards, far from being 'burdens' they can be valuable contributors to their family and friends.

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About the author (2000)

Pat Thane is at University of Sussex.

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