Gelukkig Gezond! Exhibition

Jun 22, 2017 | Blog, Museum

Today the exhibition Gelukkig Gezond! Histories of Healthy Ageing in the University Museum of Groningen is open to the public until January 2018. Yesterday, Vice Chancellor Elmer Sterken, and alderman Mattias Gijsbertsen opened the exhibition.

A popular issue in medical sciences nowadays is the concept of healthy ageing: how to stay healthy and get old. Healthy ageing is one of the great challenges of today, as the percentage of the elderly rises.

But the concept of healthy ageing is not new: people have always wanted to grow old. Key ingredients of healthy ageing nowadays are also surprisingly similar to the decisive factors in medical science before 1800, such as wellbeing and preventing illness. However, during the 19th century more and more emphasis was put on sickness, rather than on health. Emerging laboratories and the advent of modern hospitals put aside our feelings and ideas on wellbeing.

In recent years that process is reversing again. As we are facing rising numbers of elderly people, coupled with the notion that with ageing health issues will inevitably occur, things are changing. Emphasis is now put on prevention of pain and suffering, on wellbeing, and on a respectable life and decent passing away. These new priorities come with questions that are more philosophical in nature and are not easily answered by the medical profession.

In the exhibition Gelukkig Gezond! Histories of Healthy Ageing, we challenge visitors to think about the classical ideas and concepts of health and ‘healthy living’. The exhibition is structured around different themes, concentrating on the most important issues of modern healthy ageing and the medical advices dating from before the birth of the modern clinic and laboratory. Before 1800 the health discourse was characterized by the six so-called ‘non-naturals’, which determined if someone was healthy. Thematically these non-naturals form the backbone of the exhibition: climate, diet, healthy bowel movement, exercise, sleeping patterns and emotional balance.


Watch the video here:

The exhibition is accompanied by an international symposium: Histories of Healthy Ageing (21–23 June 2017) in Groningen. Exhibition and symposium form part of the scientific project Vital Matters: Boerhaave’s Chemico-medical legacy and Dutch Enlightenment Culture.

Book (in Dutch and English): Rina Knoeff (red.), Gelukkig Gezond! Histories of Healthy Ageing (Groningen: Barkhuis, 2017) is available at the entrance desk of the University Museum for €10,-  and online here.

Geert Adriaans Boomgaard (1788–1899)

Media Coverage:

  • Maaike Borst, “De oudste man van de 19de eeuw”, Dagblad van het Noorden, 1 July, p. 20.
  • “Rucola als veroorzaker van liefdesverdriet en papaver als heler van depressie? Tentoonstelling Gelukkig Gezond verteld meer over vroegere ideeën van Healthy Ageing”,, 26 June.
  • Eva Hulscher, radio interview with Rina Knoeff, Edwin op Noord (38:40–44:20), RTV Noord, 22 June.
  • Helma Erkelens, Wat ‘gezond eten’ is verandert met de tijd’, UMCG Kennisinzicht, 22 June.
  • Eva Hulscher, “Mindfulness, detox en sportschool stammen uit oudheid”,, 22 June.
  • “Gelukkig en gezond 100 jaar oud worden; hoe doe je dat?”,, 22 June.
  • Doetie Talsma, “Gezond en gelukkig oud worden, eigenlijk heel ouderwets”,, 22 June.
  • Lara Rense, “Detoxen is al eeuwenoud”, radio interview with Rina Knoeff, Nieuws & Co, Radio 1, 21 June.
  • “Schone lucht, bewegen, slapen: leefregels die al eeuwen oud zijn,”, 21 June.
  • “Een eeuwenoud recept voor gezondheid en geluk”,, 21 June.