Gendered Narratives of Ageing in Britain since 1900

by Pat Thane

10 Aug 2023
Journal of the British Academy
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Abstract: There are multiple, sometimes conflicting narratives of ageing. This article surveys those influential in British culture since c. 1900. There is a particular focus upon gender which is often overlooked in common narratives, especially the fact that women have long outlived men, on average, and are still the majority of people defined as ‘old’. This large age group, aged from their 60s to past 100, is subject to much stereotyping and generalisation, for example that they are all dependent ‘burdens’ upon younger people, and that they are incapable of learning new skills. This article challenges these generalisations by stressing the great diversity of the age group including between rich and poor, fit and frail, and highlighting their contributions to society and the economy through paid work, unpaid volunteering, care for aged and younger relatives including grandchildren and financial support for younger people.

Keywords: ageing; gender; discrimination; pension; protest; care; family; poverty

Article posted to the Journal of the British Academy, volume 11, supplementary issue 2 (Narratives of Old Age and Gender: Multi-disciplinary Perspectives)

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