Continuity and change
The post-war period has witnessed considerable changes affecting family structures and social relationships both within, and between, the generations. In this chapter we present findings from research which has examined the impact of these changes on the lives of older people living in three contrasting urban areas of England: Bethnal Green, a deprived, ethnically diverse, inner-city area of London with a history of transient populations; Wolverhampton, an industrial and multicultural Midlands metropolitan borough, which has experienced substantial redevelopment and slum clearance; and Woodford, a relatively affluent, ageing suburb in northeast London. These three areas provided the locations for a number of classic community studies undertaken in the 1940s and 1950s: The Social Medicine of Old Age (Sheldon 1948), The Family life of Old People (Townsend 1957), and Family and Class in a London Suburb (Willmott and Young 1960). The original studies examined the thesis that, in the context of a developing welfare state, families were leaving the old to fend for themselves. The reality, however, was found to be somewhat different as the rich material about the social and family life of elderly people demonstrated.