Ageing and Society


Ageing in an aged society: experiences and attitudes of Catholic order members towards population ageing and older people


a1 Wittgenstein Centre (IIASA, VID/ÖAW, WU), Vienna, Austria.


Population ageing occurs in all industrialised societies and is the demographic phenomenon that currently gets the highest attention from scientists, policy makers and the general public. The main aim of this paper is to broaden our understanding of its societal consequences, such as ageism and intergenerational solidarity. Our study is based on the 2008 investigation of attitudes towards population ageing and older people in seven European countries of Schoenmaeckers et al. We replicate their analysis in a specific human subpopulation in which the process of population ageing started earlier and is much more advanced than in the general societies: the members of Catholic orders. The study compares the attitudes of 148 nuns and monks from three Bavarian monasteries to those of the western German general population using descriptive and multivariate analyses in the context of the debate around population ageing in Germany. We discuss the specific characteristics of order members that might influence their attitudes and also take a brief look at their views on possible political strategies to solve the problems connected with the demographic changes. Our results confirm the findings of Schoenmaeckers et al. and reveal that worldly and monastic populations show an identical basic pattern of a positive attitude towards older people while at the same time considering population ageing a worrisome development. However, order members evaluate older people's abilities and their role in society more positively. This result gives rise to the optimistic perspective that in an aged population the younger and older generations can build a well-functioning society.

(Accepted May 15 2013)

(Online publication July 24 2013)


  • cloister study;
  • monastic population;
  • nuns;
  • monks;
  • ageing;
  • intergenerational solidarity;
  • aged people;
  • aged society;
  • older people;
  • ageism


c1 Address for correspondence: Marc Luy, Wittgenstein Centre (IIASA, VID/ÖAW, WU), Vienna Institute of Demography of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Wohllebengasse 12-14, 1040 Vienna, Austria. E-mail: