a1 Chief Researcher, Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure, 27 Trumpington St., Cambridge, England.
Since 1962 there has been a marked increase in the number of elderly people in Britain living on their own. The present paper presents a detailed examination of the composition of households containing elderly persons in pre-industrial England, in 1962 and in 1980 in conjunction with an overview of the situation in a number of other European countries and in the United States. On the basis of this evidence it is argued that it is impossible to sustain the view of a linear progression from pre-industrial times when the elderly lived with their children to modern times when they live on their own. The final section takes up the question of the variation in the residence patterns of pensioners in England and Wales in 1981 following from the region of residence and the type of property occupied by the household. The highest proportion of pensioners living on their own were found in the eastern half of the country, excluding London and the adjacent metropolitan area, but including Manchester. Pensioners who were owner-occupiers were more likely than council tenants to be living with 2 or more non-pensioners. On the other hand, only in the case of the private tenant did the nature of the tenure remove all trace of the regional variation and the inference was drawn that social class, occupation and local tradition were influencing the residence patterns independently of the effect of tenure.