Old age in the 19th century vs old age in the 21st century.

Joined
Oct 24, 2019
Location
Texas
I had a thought the other day, our life styles have changed significantly from the 1800s. Things like food are more readily available, the amount of movement we do day to day has gone down for most, modern healthcare is a thing. Taken all into account, was being in your 70s in the 19th century like being in your 80s today? Does what I'm saying make sense? If people aged differently then they do now, how did that effect 19th century society?
 

DBF

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 6, 2016
They certainly had much bigger families. When I research families during this time period it’s more uncommon to find a family where all their children survived into adulthood. Diseases that killed people back then are more treatable today i.e. Diabetes, heart disease and even cancer. In regards to the concept of being in your 70’s in the 1900s I wonder if they may have been slightly healthier (if they lived that long) for it seems that if one worked (without all our modern ways today) they stayed in better physical shape than having the sedentary life style of this generation.
 
Joined
Oct 24, 2019
Location
Texas
They certainly had much bigger families. When I research families during this time period it’s more uncommon to find a family where all their children survived into adulthood. Diseases that killed people back then are more treatable today i.e. Diabetes, heart disease and even cancer. In regards to the concept of being in your 70’s in the 1900s I wonder if they may have been slightly healthier (if they lived that long) for it seems that if one worked (without all our modern ways today) they stayed in better physical shape than having the sedentary life style of this generation.
"In regards to the concept of being in your 70’s in the 1900s I wonder if they may have been slightly healthier (if they lived that long) for it seems that if one worked (without all our modern ways today) they stayed in better physical shape than having the sedentary life style of this generation."

I think this is correct, I think that people today are more unhealthy today then they were in the 19th century.
 

SDolson822

Cadet
Joined
Dec 13, 2020
Location
St. Louis, Missouri
One of my ancestors, Teunis Dolson, was credited with being the first male born in New York after it was ceded to the British from the Dutch (b. September 5, 1664). Both of his parents had lived in New Amsterdam their whole lives, and lived to their 40s and 50s. Immediately after Tenuis was born, they left the city for the countryside, now Middletown. Teunis was a farmer for his entire life, and died in 1766. He was a month short of being 103 years old.

Availability of food and modern medicine definitely do have a lot to do with the average age increase, but personally, I feel that it is just living away from large groups of people and being physically active.
 

John Winn

Major
Joined
Mar 13, 2014
Location
State of Jefferson
All that's been noted so far are factors. Regarding average lifespan, though, we have to look at infant and childhood mortality rates which were very high in the nineteenth century (along with there being more children in the average family). Since so many died at young ages that moves the average lower. That said, 70 in 1900 was old old. Those folks were tougher than us (had no choice) but also led harder lives for the most part (the middle class really only coming along after WWII) so by the time somebody reached 70 they were pretty worn.
 

DaveBrt

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 6, 2010
Location
Charlotte, NC
Medical historians say that the most important factor in increasing average age of death was improved sanitation -- placement of latrines, boiling water, not sleeping with the livestock, etc. Second factor was the early vaccines -- small pox, yellow fever, measles and polio. General medical improvements have, to a large extent, been mitigated by poor lifestyle choices -- smoking, high levels of sugar/carbohydrates in the diet, lack of exercise.
 
Joined
Oct 24, 2019
Location
Texas
Medical historians say that the most important factor in increasing average age of death was improved sanitation -- placement of latrines, boiling water, not sleeping with the livestock, etc. Second factor was the early vaccines -- small pox, yellow fever, measles and polio. General medical improvements have, to a large extent, been mitigated by poor lifestyle choices -- smoking, high levels of sugar/carbohydrates in the diet, lack of exercise.
It's crazy how small quality of life improvements can add decades to somones life.
 
Joined
Oct 24, 2019
Location
Texas
All that's been noted so far are factors. Regarding average lifespan, though, we have to look at infant and childhood mortality rates which were very high in the nineteenth century (along with there being more children in the average family). Since so many died at young ages that moves the average lower. That said, 70 in 1900 was old old. Those folks were tougher than us (had no choice) but also led harder lives for the most part (the middle class really only coming along after WWII) so by the time somebody reached 70 they were pretty worn.

"Those folks were tougher than us (had no choice) but also led harder lives for the most part (the middle class really only coming along after WWII) so by the time somebody reached 70 they were pretty worn."

Imagine being a farmer in the 1860s. Imagine their joints by the time they're 60, probably arthritis ridden.
 

John Winn

Major
Joined
Mar 13, 2014
Location
State of Jefferson
Imagine being a farmer in the 1860s. Imagine their joints by the time they're 60, probably arthritis ridden.
Yep. In fact, people who study old bones can make good guesses about the deceased's occupation by looking at bone wear, density, and damage. Men who spent a lot of time in the saddle, for instance, show particular types of spinal damage. Archers show different densities and muscle attachment sites on one side than the other.

People doing manual labor of any type were subject to injuries and those added up over a lifetime, too. And if you were a woman you not only did manual labor all day around the house but likely had ten children. They just got worn out.
 
Joined
Oct 24, 2019
Location
Texas
Yep. In fact, people who study old bones can make good guesses about the deceased's occupation by looking at bone wear, density, and damage. Men who spent a lot of time in the saddle, for instance, show particular types of spinal damage. Archers show different densities and muscle attachment sites on one side than the other.

People doing manual labor of any type were subject to injuries and those added up over a lifetime, too. And if you were a woman you not only did manual labor all day around the house but likely had ten children. They just got worn out.
Yep, totally.
 

Scott1967

First Sergeant
Joined
Jul 11, 2016
Location
England
I totally agree people who work indoors and do clerical stuff last a lot longer than your physical labour person its like anything you buy the more you use it the quicker it wears out and the body is no exception + a good diet.

Interestingly enough dental care was awful many people died due to dental hygiene , Sugar was consumed in vast quantities the Caribbean became very rich at this time and profitable.
 

jackt62

Captain
Joined
Jul 28, 2015
Location
New York City
This "average" was skewed, however, by disproportionate child mortality. With so many people dying before adolescence, it chops the entire average back. If you made it to 14, you would probably make it to at least 60.

Very true. The type of illness that did so many in during the 19th century were those communicable diseases that were rampant among the young. By the 20th century, the reverse occurred, with deadly illness (cancer, heart disease), often taking years to develop thereby striking older people more so.
 

Tom Hughes

First Sergeant
Joined
May 27, 2019
Location
Mississippi
They died of things that today are easily curable.
They couldn’t explain some ailments other than being sick chills and fever, etc.
Today’s longevity is both a blessing and a curse. Lots of our ailments and/or long life depends on our choices but also on our quality of care we now get in 21st century America.
 

lupaglupa

1st Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Apr 18, 2019
Location
Upstate New York
This "average" was skewed, however, by disproportionate child mortality. With so many people dying before adolescence, it chops the entire average back. If you made it to 14, you would probably make it to at least 60.
This is a really important fact that often gets overlooked - the average age of death includes the many children who died. People in the 19th century who lived past childhood had lives not much shorter than ours.
 

lupaglupa

1st Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Apr 18, 2019
Location
Upstate New York
Medical historians say that the most important factor in increasing average age of death was improved sanitation -- placement of latrines, boiling water, not sleeping with the livestock, etc. Second factor was the early vaccines -- small pox, yellow fever, measles and polio. General medical improvements have, to a large extent, been mitigated by poor lifestyle choices -- smoking, high levels of sugar/carbohydrates in the diet, lack of exercise.
Deaths from disease impacted urban populations much more than rural ones so death rates varied by location quite a lot. You can see this with the disease issues both the US and CS armies had early in the war - soldiers from rural areas arrived in camp and got sick after being exposed to diseases they'd never seen in their small communities.
 
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