Old age
in The life–cycle in Western Europe, c.1300-c.1500
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The final stages of the life cycle witnessed the ageing of the individual to the point where he or she would be identified as 'old' or 'aged'. In twenty-first-century Britain, chronological age has a key role in defining the entry into senior citizenship. Sixty-five is the official age for retirement and pension entitlement. While medieval writers employed chronological age markers, they preferred identifying an old person in terms of appearance, or by mental and physical capabilities. With the introduction of state pensions in the twentieth-century Britain, old age became associated with retirement, and a clear distinction is drawn between the working, active young and the inactive old. There were no state pensions or universal work benefits in medieval Europe. The chapter also shows that the elderly in medieval society were stereotyped as physically weak, and exemptions from war and administrative responsibilities imply that some old people were given age-related assistance.


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