So what would a care of older people nurse find interesting in Roman History? Regular readers may have noted that I’m now a law student at the University of Edinburgh, and also that I’m studying Civil Law. It’s amazing! I knew nothing of the Romans apart from what I can vaguely remember from a bit of Latin at school fifty years ago. I am learning a lot.
There are academics who specialise in the "history of old age” and further reading shows how little thinking has changed over the centuries. Roman old age presented social, legal and medical challenges, similar to those today. Only 6-8% of Romans lived over sixty, but what counted as old age wasn’t so much about calendar years as the years when a person ceased to be socially useful. Seneca asks questions about the end of life, as to whether an old person is lingering over life, or lingering over death. Seneca also has strong views about what he’d do to himself if he got dementia. Healthy old age = good. Unhealthy dependent old age = not worth preserving. Reading Cicero’s De Senectute might not be be required for gerontology nurses or doctors, but it might be worth a look if you are planning to be old.
And for the even more curious, check out Old Age in the Roman World: A Cultural and Social History, by Tim G. Parkin. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD, 2003