An understanding of the family arrangements and supports for older people in American society has been clouded by myths about the past, on the one hand, and by a narrow treatment of contemporary problems, on the other hand. A historical perspective is needed, not only to understand what changes have occurred over time, but also to determine how historical events and circumstances have affected each cohort in terms of the “historical baggage” that different groups bring into old age. A life course perspective is needed in order to understand the impact of historical conditions on the life history of various cohorts and the consequences of those conditions for adaptation in the later years of life. 1