We begin with an obvious but not simple question: Who are, or were, the elderly? There is, of course, a vague biological boundary-line, but the ‘concept of ageing is a statistical one, and no valid means ofmeasuring it in the individual are available'. Statistically, today as in antiquity, the agreed points at which to draw the line in general terms seem to be either sixty or sixty-five. In concrete terms, however, there are many lines, determined by social, economic, and political considerations, for which biology provides no more than crude limits. For example, in England today a woman qualifies as an old-age pensioner at sixty, a man at sixty-five. Retirement is normal in the civil service at sixty, compulsory in the universities at sixty-five or sixty-seven, depending on a vote taken in individual institutions more than twentyfive years ago, but in Scotland at seventy. Members of parliament and until recently judges, in contrast, are allowed to go on until they drop if they so choose, and many do so choose. That these variations are directly linked with political influence, pensions, the desire to spread employment, access to lucrative post-retirement employment, ideology, and so on, not with biology, is self-evident.