Greek Geriatrics

Elders and betters? Attitudes towards old age in the society of classical Greece were enormously varied and often far from respectful.

The status of the elderly and the care and attention which they receive from their relatives differ markedly from one human society to the next. How geriatrics are treated has implications not only for other age-groups, but also for the rigidity or progressiveness of political and social institutions.

It would be natural to suppose that in ancient Greece, where the majority of those who survived infancy did not live to be fifty, individuals who attained the age of sixty or seventy would have wielded considerable influence in the community. Although this may have been true of conservative Greek states such as Sparta, in Classical Athens, by contrast, an extreme and radical democracy the like of which has never existed since, the reverse may actually have been the case. The degree of regard accorded to old age by these same societies was not unrelated to the political systems which they individually espoused.

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