THE BENEFITS OF CLOISTER LIFE
In short, the study shows life expectancy is not so much influenced by gender but by lifestyle. Men simply bear the consequences of their riskier lifestyle, but many of these factors can be influenced if men desire to live longer.
“While not all components of a long and healthy life can be controlled by the individual, much of our life expectancy is affected by man-made circumstances. These include social, political, economic, demographic and behavioral factors such as a stressful work environment or smoking,” sums up Luy.
When he presented his findings, monks often attributed their long lives to a regular daily routine. “Many also pointed to a smooth transition into old age,” Luy comments. Ongoing responsibilities were often considered beneficial by elder monks.
Abbot President Jeremias Schröder agrees. “In St. Ottilien, a brother’s 65th birthday, traditionally the official retirement entry age in many countries, is celebrated like any other birthday.” The Benedictine community of 100 brothers, nestled into the rolling hills of Bavaria, is one of the monasteries that provided data for Luy’s study.
“Retaining a degree of responsibility in old age is visibly beneficial to the elderly members of our monastery. It often leads to healthier and more-active aging,” Schroeder says. St. Ottilien has no retirement phase in the worldly sense of the word. Instead, a change of tasks is discussed between the brother and the archabbot.
The fact that nonworking monks continue to be included in the community likely adds to their well-being. While they pay into the German state pension system, benefits go directly to the monastery and the individual member is fed and clothed regardless of how much he works. The monastery also maintains a care unit for those too weak to take care of themselves.
“We have no private property,” says Schroeder. “Elder brothers contribute to the community to the best of their abilities, and if that decreases in old age, so be it. As a collective, we care for each other from the time of entry until the end.”