Old people and things that pass'. Historical perspectives on ageing: What's the use?

F. Pitstra, E. Alofs (Editor), W. Schrama (Editor)

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingArticleAcademic


The 21th century already has been labelled ‘the century of the city’ and ‘the urban age’. With the decentralization of the care for those who are aged the national government of The Netherlands pushes towards the end of the welfare state we have come to know throughout the 20th century. As this shift happens we see an emerge of local and private initiatives concerning the care for the elderly. A situation that might seem novel, but in fact is not at all new. In the past care for older citizens was often organised locally and through private initiatives. An example will illustrate how the so called ‘Gods chambers and Guesthouses’ in Utrecht, which were locally and privately organised and paid for, from the 13th century onwards provided housing and nursing facilities for those who had aged and did not have the means to take care of their own. What motivated people in the past to care for their fellow citizens? What did the elderly wish for themselves? And is there anything we can learn from those histories when we consider our current situation? In this paper I will explain why it is important – for scholars, politicians and all who are involved in the ageing debate – to have knowledge of the history of ageing. Relating to questions concerning ageing in our ‘century of the city’ I will explore how I think a historical study of ageing can contribute on a fundamental level to the current ageing debate, beyond its dominant and popular themes.
Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationUpwards solidarity - caring for the elderly. Proceedings of RETHINKIN - Rethinking legal kinship and family studies in the Low Countries
Publication statusPublished - 12 Nov 2015

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