4 ways ageing has changed over the centuries.


The way we age has changed quite a bit over the centuries. Some things for the worse and some for the better. But there are four major themes that show some of the most dramatic changes that have occurred over the centuries.

1. Shop Work till you drop

Back in the day… before we had retirement funds and before the term ‘OAP’ existed, people worked until the day they dropped dead. One day they would be tilling the land and milking the cows, and the next day their family would be digging their grave. People didn’t retire from work and have another 20-30 years to go on cruises and be the members of The Posh Club. But this was before the trailblazers came along – Otto von Bismarck who invented ‘retirement’ in 1881 and Beatrice Webb and Lloyd George who created ‘OAPs’ in the 1908 Pensions Act.

Today… people get to retire, and they look forward to it. They say, ‘when I retire, I’ll have time to do that home improvement project’ or ‘when I retire, I’ll finally get to go on those world travel holidays I’ve always wanted to do.’ We get to live the life we’ve always wanted to live because we finally have time to fulfil the dreams of ‘I’ve always wanted to…’

2. Families always stuck together

Back in the day… parents lived with their children till the day they died. All generations of a family lived under one roof and continued to live life together at every stage of life. The grown children would take care of their parents in their old age. There would be no talk of dad living off in a big house by himself or moving mum into a care home – there was no such thing.

Today… families are split and have more independence than ever before. Many of our ageing parents continue to live in the house they have always had. They live with their spouse or alone if their spouse passed away, living by themselves in their homes of 40 years, even if it is no longer appropriate for their needs.

3. People were born and died in the same family house passed down for generations

Back in the day… through every stage of life, family members would all live in the same family home. Houses would stay in the family for generations. Generations would be born in that house and generations would die in that house. People didn’t move to other countries away from family, or even down the street many times. It was expected that families always stayed together. You would live at home with your ageing parents until they passed away and then you would wait for your kids to take care of you as you got to your older stages of life, and so on.

Today… the majority of older people live alone in their homes and go from home to hospital, hospital to home over and over for months or even years until they finally die. In fact, in 2016, 46.9% of all deaths in England were in a hospital. That’s almost half of Brits who end up dying in hospitals.

4. We looked to the elderly for their advice and wisdom

Back in the day… the elderly were the most highly respected individuals in society. They had a whole lifetime of knowledge and were perceived as the people with a plethora of wisdom in society. They were the Yodas of their time and were highly respected because of this. People would come to them for advice on the many questions they had about life, and because of this, they were regarded as the highest and most respected persons in society.

Today… we don’t need to ask our grandparents for advice. We just ask Google. Some of us no longer see them as a great resource of knowledge and wisdom and at some point in history, we lost some of that great respect we once had for the elderly in society.

5. People were dying at age 30

Back in the day… in the 1800s to be more exact, the life expectancy in Europe was between 30 and 40 years of age. At one time, people would race to get married and have kids because they could be dead at 30.

Today… because of all the advancements we have made in science, medicine and healthcare, we are able to live for longer and longer. In 2020, there is a life expectancy of 81 for those in the UK. Some of us don’t even think about getting married till we’re 30. Kids? Psh. There’s plenty of time for that.

Much has changed about the way we age. Some things are for the better and some for the worse. But, one thing that’s for sure – there are many more opportunities to live a longer and happier life than ever before. We just need to know how to manage our resources to make a better living in our third life a reality.


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