Introduction: Ageing and Ritual in a Changing Europe
The study of religion and ageing is surprisingly neglected. Although transmission of religion and socialisation into its practices usually occur very early in life, the significance of religion often becomes more important in later years. Indeed it can be argued that, as one of human culture’s major products, religion is a major benefactor to age, offering sustenance in the face of biological decline and death (Baltes 1997; Coleman et al. 2011a). These benefits take both psychological and social forms in contributing to a sense of continued meaning and purpose in life, and providing continuity of identity and belief in the face of disruptive social change. In addition, religion often provides tangible physical benefits to older people. Many religions have been at the forefront in creating institutions to cater for older people’s care needs. Religious organisations also provide social roles for older people, including the transmission of religious practice and teaching, directly within their own structures and indirectly in their encouragement of intergenerational bonds within the family and wider community.