Published online by Cambridge University Press: 10 April 2015
Drawing primarily upon data from the various censuses conducted in Ireland after the Act of Union in 1800, this paper seeks to elucidate the changing position of older people in Ireland during the Victorian period. Following the Great Famine of 1845–1849, it is argued, Ireland was transformed from a young, growing country to one that, by the end of the 19th century, had become ‘prematurely’ old. By the end of Victoria's reign, not only had Ireland grown ‘old’, but its older population were more likely to be identified as paupers. Later-life expectancy decreased and sickness and infirmity among the over-60 s increased. By employing a stricter form of ‘less eligibility’ in the drafting and implementation of the Irish Poor Law, proportionately more older people received indoor relief than outdoor relief compared with the rest of the British Isles. Not until the Old Age Pensions Act in 1908 did these disparities begin to change, by which time many of these ‘other’ Victorians had passed away.