A brief historical review of the role of the elderly over different periods in Western history is made.
The esteem of the elderly had its highest point during primitive epochs when an illiterate culture prevailed. After those remote times their social valuation suffered diverse vicissitudes. Most of the time older people were devaluated, although it is necessary to make a distinction between the aged as an individual-whose value relates to his economical power or prestige- and the aged as a social group.
Going along the different historical epochs helps us to understand current situation of the elderly. This is a necessary condition for giving an answer to the great challenge this age group of ever increasing demographic growth poses.