This article examines in detail some recent data on the living standards of elderly people. It is argued that poverty is related to low resources and restricted access to resources and therefore the article includes summarized information about a wide range of benefits and services. Questions are raised concerning the various social policies and processes which have contributed to the creation of poverty and dependency in old age. The growing importance of retirement is singled out for attention as one significant factor contributing to the depressed social status of the elderly, and as part of the general tendency in British society to devalue the worth of elderly people. It is this social relationship between age and the labour market which deserves attention from policy-makers, who have tended to concentrate on the consequences rather than the causes of dependency.