When an elderly person is no longer capable of or willing to live on their own, they can choose to move something I would call a "service home"1. Such institutions offer a variety of services: cleaning, food, assistance for running errands, help and supervision with medication, and other such things. These places are closer to hotels than hospitals in nature.

I would like to find a good word for such a place in Latin. I want to avoid negative connotations. Something like "service home" or "assisted living facility" (or "retirement home"?) might work, but I don't want to call it a hospital of any kind. It is a place where a person can choose to go, not a place where "old people are locked up to keep the out of the way". If possible, reference to old age should preferably be avoided, as an "old people's home" comes across (to me at least) as far more pejorative than "service home". You could say that I'm looking for an euphemism, but there is also a genuine distinction to be made — at least in Finland.

The word for an old people's home my dictionary suggests is gerontocomium. Perhaps the Greek γέρων has a more positive tone than the English "old man", but I hope there would be a more suitable word. The words for "hotel" mentioned in the dictionary (deversorium and xenodochium) refer to housing visitors and therefore look like inappropriate starting points. Another Latin word that comes to mind is asylum, but I dislike the tone. If I were to choose a word now, I might go with domus famulatoria.

Which word would you suggest and why? It doesn't have to be a single word, but I don't want anything excessively long. Maybe I have too stringent criteria there is no perfect word, but in that case I ask you to propose the best fit(s) you know. Latin of any era is welcome and attestation is not required.

1 This is a direct translation from Finnish. If a person requires more aid and cannot survive in a "service home" (palvelutalo), they can move to an "old people's home" (vanhainkoti) or "nursing home" (hoitokoti/hoivakoti), which is a big step towards a hospital-like environment. As suggested by kkm in a comment, a similar distinction is found in the US between an assisted living facility and a nursing home. I'm not aware of any similar distinction in English, but I hope I have communicated my need clearly enough.

  • 4
    I think it's called the senatus.
    – cmw
    Jul 1, 2017 at 19:42
  • 1
    FWIW, in the US English probably the closest concepts would be, respectively, the assisted living [facility] and the nursing home. Jul 1, 2017 at 22:59
  • Modern Greek uses γεροκομείο, and the concern about tone and avoiding words for "old" does look anachronistic to me. (The Modern Greek Wiktionary partakes of that euphemism: el.wiktionary.org/wiki/γηροκομείο, "an institution which permanently hosts persons in the Third Age".) κομέω does refer to caring rather than locking away (so the "service" notion is explicit), and, well, they are old people: would these institutions admit someone under 40? (There are instances in Australia where that happens, with mental handicap, but it's not the norm, and is not seen as desirable.) Jul 19, 2018 at 1:26

1 Answer 1


As mentioned by kkm, there are multiple levels of senior care in the United States. I actually volunteer often enough at one such facility. At this place there are three tiers of care available.

  1. Assisted Living
    • The people here are almost completely independent, and can do and go practically anywhere. They receive basic medical care through the provision of their doctor required pills administered by RNAs.
  2. Skilled nursing/rehabilitation
    • This is what we would traditionally call a nursing home. Most of the residents here are in wheelchairs and many have memory deterioration. They are not allowed to leave the premises. Some are there only temporarily because they suffered from some injury.
  3. Memory care
    • Residents here all suffer from serious memory deterioration, often in the form of dementia. They are not allowed to leave, and are heavily dependent upon the staff and RNAs.

So, how would one translate this? Let me start with tier 2, as that is what is most traditionally known as a nursing home. You mention gerontocomium, which the Morgan and Silva Furman University Lexicon also suggests, among a few other options:

.med nursing home (for elderly), old folks' home, rest home / gerontocomîum [Cod. Just.] (HELF.) gerontotrophium (LRL) ]] gerusia (LEV.)

Interestingly enough, the Emperor Justinian is the source for gerontocomium, which is used in the Codex Iustinianus, as in this quote (CJ.1.2.22):

Sancimus res ad venerabiles ecclesias vel xenones vel monasteria vel ptochotrophia vel brephotrophia vel orphanotrophia vel gerontocomia vel si quid aliud tale consortium descendentes ex qualicumque curiali liberalitate sive inter vivos sive mortis causa sive in ultimis voluntatibus habita lucrativorum inscriptionibus liberas immunesque esse: lege scilicet, quae super huiusmodi inscriptionibus posita est, in aliis quidem personis suum robur obtinente, in parte autem ecclesiastica vel aliarum domuum, quae piis consortiis deputatae sunt, suum vigorem pietatis intuitu mitigante. cur enim non faciamus discrimen inter res divinas et humanas, et quare non competens praerogativa caelesti favori conservetur?

So this appears to be a suitable option fro tier 2. But what about tiers 1 and 3? Well, it appears that the MSFUL does not provide a difference, so we are left to try to create something that captures the meaning. Neither of these facilities are hospital-like (although they perform some similar actions). Here are my suggestions for how one might translate them:

1) Domus victūs coadiuti - Home of assisted living

3) Domus curae memoriarum - Home for the care of memories

These are just my creations, and I am open to suggestions, particularly for tier 3, as I am slightly unsatisfied with that one. These are a bit longer, but that is generally how many modern terms are adapted (see Lexicon Recentis Latinitatis).

Again, I am open to suggestions and improvements, but these were just my two bits.

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