This film is part of Free

Life With Grandpa

Watch America’s ‘oldsters’ dance, get married, play baseball and work more efficiently than their younger counterparts in this spirited challenge to prejudices about old age.

Documentary 1948 17 mins


This lively examination of the problems and opportunities confronting America’s ageing population in 1948, mixes humour and pathos to show that life can begin at sixty, seventy, or even eighty. From journalist Dorothy Dix, dictating her latest advice column at the age of 78, to the men in the workshop of the Ithaca Gun Company - where you’re a youngster if you’re sixty - this issue shows how Americans were finding new ways to grow old in an era of increasing life expectancy.

In 1948 America was facing the new challenges of an increasing population in which 11 million people were over the age of 65. Despite a tendency to focus on men rather than women, the issue is notable for its generally progressive tone, which manages to avoid patronising older people and focuses instead on how the prejudices of employers, rigid company policies and inadequate pension schemes were making life difficult for the over-60s. Combining genuine footage - including some powerful clips of life in a poorhouse - with re-enacted scenes, and comments from politicians and reformers such as Thomas E. Dewey, this issue shows American society coming to terms with major demographic changes in the post-war years.