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Old Age and Population Ageing

2. Old Age and the Welfare State Since 1945

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In this module, we think about the emergence of the welfare state from 1945 and its impacts on older people. We focus on: (i) the expansion of state pensions, and the consequent emergence of retirement as a common phase of life for the first time; (ii) the creation of the National Health Service in 1948, which particularly benefited older people; (iii) the establishment of free care homes, and some of the problems with the state social care system. We conclude by noting that older people vary hugely in their levels of physical and mental health, and that consequently their welfare needs cannot be universalised.


In this course, Professor Pat Thane (Birkbeck, University of London) explores population ageing, its causes and impacts, policies related to it, and the place of older people in society. In the first module, we look at the historical process of population ageing and the first policies around old age in the early 1900s. In the second, we think about the welfare state and its effects on older people’s lives, in terms of state pensions, the National Health Service, and social care. The third module surveys policies related to population ageing from the 1970s to the present, and the fourth outlines some stereotypes and realities about older people. We conclude with a module on ageist discrimination in employment and healthcare, and the ways in which older people have protested this.


Professor Pat Thane is Visiting Professor in History at Birkbeck, University of London. She researches twentieth century British history, with a focus on social policy. Her recent publications include Divided Kingdom: A History of Britain, 1900 to the Present (2018), Sinners? Scroungers? Saints? Unmarried Motherhood in Twentieth Century England (2012) (with Tanya Evans) and Happy Families? History and Family Policy (2011).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Thane, P. (2022, February 07). Old Age and Population Ageing - Old Age and the Welfare State Since 1945 [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Thane, P. "Old Age and Population Ageing – Old Age and the Welfare State Since 1945." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 07 Feb 2022,

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