Queen Victoria, whilst she had a very privileged existence, faced some very tough challenges in life also. Born in 1819, her father died before she was one, she was married by the time she was 20, had nine children by the time she was 38, her husband Albert died when she was 42. She survived a number of assassination attempts, outlived a number of her own children and died at the age of 81.
All this during Victorian times, where there was no female representation in parliament, no vote for women, little education beyond primary level, few women in professions, little property ownership amongst women in their own name. Women who did work, generally worked in domestic service, child care or low level factory work. Often women couldn’t even travel without male accompaniment. Healthcare for women was very different also, deaths of women in childbirth were common, and infections were rife in hospitals. There was certainly no health screening for women as we know it today.
However, what is interesting is that the majority of women didn’t smoke tobacco or drink alcohol and lung cancer and bowel complications of excess alcohol were virtually unheard of. As society developed over the last century and more, lifestyles have changed considerably and medical conditions that traditionally were found in men are now quite common in women. Women now routinely die from conditions relating to smoking and excess alcohol. One of the leading insurers in Ireland, Irish Life, has in the last five years paid out over €2.5 million in specified illness claims to women who have or had lung cancer alone. In the area of deaths due to alcohol or drugs, the ratio in the last five years is 41 for women to 52 such claims for men.
According to the office of National Statistics in the UK, women live longer than men and, over the last 30 years the number of centenarians in the UK have increased fivefold, from 2,500 in 1980 to 12,640 in 2010. In Northern Ireland in 1970, there were about 30 people who were aged 100 or more whereas in 2010 this figure was estimated to be 210. The most recent census show that there has been a 66 per cent increase in centenarians in the United States, with more than 53,000 people aged 100 or over. By 2050, it’s predicted that this figure will explode to 600,000.
And Ireland won’t be outdone. Our last census recorded 389 people aged over 100, almost 13 times the number in 1951. Remarkably, 85 per cent were female. Dr Roger O’Sullivan from the Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland believes that this is because women are more careful about their health.
“Women are more likely to visit their GP more often,” he says. “They’re also often more engaged in their social networks, which is also beneficial to their health.” One in three children born today will live to be 100, he says.
The increase in lifespan, especially for women means increases in older age diseases for women.
When asked what she thought of the enhanced role women were beginning to take in society in her day, Queen Victoria is believed to have told Gladstone, the Prime Minister in 1870, that she â€œhad the strongest aversion for the so-called and most erroneous ‘rights of women’â€.
However, women need to think about what this means for them and ensure they are adequate resources or life cover or cover for illness for themselves.
– See more at: https://web.archive.org/web/20150909155407/http://www.galwayindependent.com/business/moneymatters/articles/2015/03/25/4065164-its-a-womans-life/#sthash.jkaLlMJW.dpuf