Have you heard the warnings that pensions are in danger? It is predicted that there will be too few working people to support the pensions of retirees. Our current populations are heavily weighted towards seniors.
In medieval times the population was heavily weighted towards youth. Life expectancy was 50. Childhood was short. Boys started work at seven and were responsible citizens by their teens. It was not uncommon for men to become ship captains or military commanders at what our society would consider school age. Girls too reached maturity at a younger age and were encouraged to bear children in their teens.
Not everyone died by 50. There were some older people around. The proportion of elders in the population was relatively sparse, however. And the age at which people were considered older was a lot earlier. In his book about Medieval England, Ian Mortimer says, “It is generally said that medieval men are in their prime in their twenties, mature in their thirties and growing old in their forties.”*
Mortimer goes onto describe the lot of medieval citizens who were lucky enough to survive longer. Old men were considered somewhat of an embarrassment because they are no longer useful. On the other hand, old women are considered to have gained wisdom and have a role to play in the household.
Doune Castle in Scotland, a surviving Medieval dwelling
Mortimer, Ian. The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England. Vintage Books, London, 2009 p37.*