Dying of ‘Old Age’
Reading through your latest issue I noticed my AGRA colleague, Emma Jolly’s, mention of ‘Old Age’ as a cause of death being used “well into the 20th century”.
I have worked as a registrar of births, marriages and deaths, as well as a professional genealogist – the use of ‘Old Age’ as a cause of death is still valid, and is regularly used by doctors. There is a
requirement that the person must have been at least 80 years old (it used to be 70 years, but was raised in line with growing life expectancy some years ago). It may appear as a primary cause with other contributing factors, but can often be the single cause listed, especially where the person is of very great age.
It was explained to me in my training as a registrar that doctors will tend to use it as a general cause when the person is very elderly and may have a number of medical conditions being treated, any of which could have been the primary cause of death, or where it may have been a combination of their conditions. It spares the family the distress of waiting for a post-mortem to establish a specific cause (which often isn’t always possible in such cases anyway).
I hope that is of interest.