The Birkbeck Pain Project & Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities present:
Pain and Old Age: Three Centuries of Suffering in Silence?
According to the British Pain Society, ‘pain is not a normal part of ageing’ (2008). Yet for generations of older people, pain was something that was intimately tied to the ageing process. For many, it was the body in pain that signalled their entry into old age. Furthermore, the elderly have not wanted to be a ‘burden’ to their families, friends, and support systems, and consequently they often endured pain with a quiet acceptance. When did this relationship between pain and old age undergo such a profound and fundamental shift? Or, did it? Were the elderly in the past always quietly accepting of the aches and pains of a physically declining body? Or did they fight against pain and the very real physical, emotional, and familial restrictions that chronic pain can impose?
This one-day conference explores the nature of pain in old age between the 18th and the 20th centuries. It explicitly does so through the lens of the humanities, rather than hard sciences. The conference strives to be wide-ranging in terms of disciplines, methodologies, and approaches. In doing so, it seeks to engage both panellists and audience in discussion, dialogue, and debate. Our aim is to facilitate new ways of thinking about both the nature of pain and what it meant to be old.
Professor Susannah Ottaway (Carleton College, Canada) – Silencing Pain in Old Age during the Long Eighteenth Century