Other Free Encyclopedias » Medicine Encyclopedia » Aging Healthy - Part 4 » Status of Older People: Preindustrial West - How Was ‘‘old Age’’ Defined?, How Did Older People Support Themselves In The Preindustrial West?, Charity And Poor Relief

Status of Older People: Preindustrial West - Charity And Poor Relief

age funded systems public century

When families were not able, willing, or available to help, many older people needed the support of charity or public welfare. Not all older people were poor, but in most preindustrial societies they were more likely than younger people to be very poor, especially if they were female. All European societies had some collectively funded system of provision for the aged and other poor people, and charitable funds, often religious in motivation and institutionalization. This system could provide payments in cash or kind (food, clothing, medical care) or shelter in a hospital or workhouse. Provision was of variable quality, within each country as well as over time, and it was guided by varied principles: supportive, rehabilitative, or punitive. Everywhere old people were numerous among recipients of relief, along with widows and children, but nowhere did reaching a defined age automatically qualify anyone for relief. The essential qualification was destitution.

Countries of the ‘‘new’’ world tended to reject publicly funded welfare systems because initially they lacked both an established, substantial wealthy class capable of funding them and the mass of miserable poor that required them. Also, nineteenth-century migrants were often fleeing from punitive relief systems in Europe and had no desire to replicate them. Ideologically, too, they placed a premium upon independence and self-help. Australia and New Zealand never introduced publicly funded poor relief systems, relying instead upon voluntary charity, sometimes (and increasingly over time) subsidized from public funds. The picture was similar in nineteenth-century Canada. In parts of the United States the extent of unmet need necessitated the introduction of poor relief, but ‘‘welfare’’ early acquired and retained more stigmatizing associations than elsewhere in the west. Most nation-states, at least by the eighteenth century and commonly in the nineteenth, provided publicly funded pensions for public servants and for the disabled veterans of war and sometimes for their families.

Status of Older People: Preindustrial West - Declining Status Of Older People [next] [back] Status of Older People: Preindustrial West - How Did Older People Support Themselves In The Preindustrial West?

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