Nick Hubble, Jennie Taylor and Philip Tew, eds, Growing Old with the Welfare State: Eight British Lives, Bloomsbury Academic, 158pp, hardback ISBN: 978-1-3500-3310-8 £65.00, paperback ISBN: 978-13500-3309-2 £19.99, ebook ISBN: 978-1-3500-3311-5 £21.58 All versions currently available at reduced rates for pre-order from Bloomsbury website. Published 16 May 2019.
The combined effect of the welfare state and medical advances means that more people now live longer lives than ever before in history. As a consequence, the experience of ageing has been transformed. Yet our cultural and social perceptions of ageing remain governed by increasingly dated images and narratives.
Growing Old with the Welfare State challenges these stereotypes by bringing together eight previously unpublished stories of ordinary British people born between 1925 and 1945 to show contemporary ageing in a new light. These biographical narratives, six of which were written as part of the Mass Observation Project and the other two by members of the University of the Third Age, reflect on and compare the experience of living of those who grew up in two post-war periods of social change, after the first and second world wars. In doing so, these stories, along with their accompanying contextual chapters, provide a valuable and accessible resource for social historians, and expose both historical and contemporary views of age and ageing that challenge modern assumptions.
These stories come from a research project called ‘Fiction and the Cultural Mediation of Ageing’ (FCMAP) that was carried out by the Brunel Centre for Contemporary Writing (BCCW) at Brunel University London as part of the UK-wide New Dynamics of Ageing (NDA) research programme, co-ordinated by Professor Alan Walker (Sheffield University) for the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). Previous project publications including Mass Observation material include: Bazalgette, Holden, Tew, Hubble and Morrison, Coming of Age (Demos, 2011; free to download) and Nick Hubble and Philip Tew, Ageing, Narrative and Identity: New Qualitative Social Research (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).
Growing Old with the Welfare State tells us what it is like to grow old in modern Britain. Each chapter focuses on the experience of a single individual recorded over a period of twenty years. Each shows that growing old is an active process, that can be marked by love and unexpected opportunity as well as by loss and anxiety. But the book offers more than a series of beautifully moving individual histories - it also shows us the complex ways in which age, historical context and generational identity work together to frame attitude and experience. - Claire Langhamer, Professor of Modern British History, University of Sussex, UK