‘Good, fresh air and an expert medical service’: Old age pensioners in Leiden’s St. Hiëronymusdal retirement home, sixteenth century

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The cost of retirement has a strong impact on social processes, both today and in the past. This study concerns the cost of retirement to St. Hiëronymusdal, a retirement home that was established outside the town of Leiden in the first half of the sixteenth century. Here individuals could purchase lifelong accommodation and care. If they had enough money to spend, they could opt for relatively luxurious contracts providing them with a private room; if they were short of means, they could opt for a basic contract providing them with a bed in a hall. We demonstrate that this allowed people from lower and middling groups to prepare for old age. Inexpensive retirement also gave individuals the option to spend their old age living independently from relatives, in a retirement home. These elderly people could do this on their own account by paying for care rather than depending on charity – which usually involved a loss of social prestige. We suggest that inexpensive retirement allowed family ties to become looser and thus facilitated such developments as migration and urbanization, and the rise of the European marriage pattern. Rising prices and declining interest rates caused retirement to become more expensive in later centuries though, posing challenges for the early modern elderly.


External organisations
  • Leiden University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Economic History


  • corrodies, early modern history, medieval history, retirement, Social history
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-213
Number of pages19
JournalThe History of the Family
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2016 Apr 2
Externally publishedYes