What will life be like in 50 or 100 years?

A few weeks ago we passed 30,000 comments on this website. I appreciate all of them (well, almost all of them 🙂 ) and just want to thank each of you who takes the time to share your thoughts with the rest of us.

I’m not always able to write a personal response, but nonetheless the comments section remains one of my favorite parts of running this site. Thanks to what you share I have been exposed to different perspectives, been made to laugh, think, and learned a lot.

With that in mind I wanted to draw attention to a comment posted by reader Sadie. I have meant to return to this comment since first reading it about a month ago.

I can’t do justice here to the big questions she raises, but it’s interesting to think about them. I’ll just say that it seems each generation tends to think the one which follows takes things a little further than they ought.

Maybe it’s just human nature to think that way. I even catch myself doing it, and I am not yet a greybeard (though as I was reminded by the refreshingly blunt Amish lately, I am becoming, in so many words, a “greysides”).

This post’s big question title, for that matter, comes from an observation near the end of Sadie’s comment, excerpted here:

This article made me think about how time and change have affected various Amish people and subgroups at perhaps 50 year intervals.

2013 versus 1963
1963 versus 1913
1913 versus 1863
1863 versus 1813
1813 versus 1763
1763 versus 1713
1713 and back to the original — I think — split from the Mennonites by followers of Jakob Ammann in 1693

I wonder how much the lives of the “general” Amish people differed at each of these half-decade points; would life as one’s parents or grandparents even be recognizably Amish by the younger generations, and did older generations even contemplate the shifts that would mold and split the Amish communities even more in the future?

What was the dress like at each point, what areas were the Amish inhabiting, and how well were they accepted by the English?

Was their manner of dress ever indistinguishable from that of the English, and when did it begin to stand out so greatly as it does today?

Future Changes Amish
Will scenes like this someday appear quaint to Amish eyes?

What technologies, liberties, or teachings of various Amish churches or districts were once considered to be entirely inappropriate, that now have been adopted, and how do different generations among today’s Amish view the norms, mores, and Ordnungs of years past?

What changes may be adopted in the future — and, will those changes have an impact on the sustained existence of the Amish people, culture, and religion?

I think it’s difficult for those of any generation — whether Amish, English, or whatever — to truly comprehend the past as it was lived by their predecessors. I believe it’s likely equally hard to imagine what life will be like for one’s descendants.

How life might differ for our descendants is a fascinating, abstract, and slightly scary, thing to ponder.  In light of Sadie’s questions, my impression is that Amish people probably think more on average than English about how decisions made today will affect grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Though Sadie is probably correct that it’s difficult to imagine the future, that doesn’t mean one can’t try.

Any bold (or timid) predictions?  Should we be optimistic or pessimistic?  How might life be better or worse for those to come?

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    1. Joseph Toth


      Hi there! I don’t usually comment but I am an avid reader! Love all of your posts…this one in particular caught my interest. My personal and humble opinion is that the Amish will remain steadfast in their beliefs/customs. Of course there will be some necessary concessions in terms of technology and things like that (after all, times do indeed change). I also think some of the dress will change, but not much. I’m a historian (history teacher by trade) and when I look back at the Amish communities of past times, I see they have amended (somewhat) their dress (i.e. shoes…I see many Amish wearing more modern shoes such as sneakers and boots with their more traditional garb). However, all that being said, I think the majority of the Amish customs that we have all come to enjoy, admire, and love will remain the same.

      1. Joseph, thanks for commenting! The shoes Amish wear was one of the first things that stuck out to me when I first met Amish people. I guess I thought they should be homemade too. Not sure how comfortable homemade shoes are though.

        1. Joseph Toth

          The shoes were the first thing that struck me as well…but hey – they need comfort too! Especially when they are their feet for the entire day!

        2. James Kramer

          What will Life Be like in 50 or 100 Years?

          I would hate to think they’ll lose their language-once that’s gone, there’s not much left! I speak German, French and read Hebrew, and language makes all the difference. If someone could help with a book or series of books to make High German more intelligible to the majority, that would help. When I was involved in the Synagogues, Hebrew was not commonly understood, but easily pronounced, and to most of the Conservative Jewish people the loss of it from worship would be tantamount to heresy! High German is not difficult–I used to teach it. People make more of the grammar than necessary, and no one has to worry much about the modern orthography–since it would be used to promote understanding and worship. That type of vocabulary should not be hard to teach or to acquire, and everyone who knows more than one language fluently can attest to the marvelous ways this opens the eyes and mind! Oh, and about shoes: Get ahold of a copy of “The Story of the Trapp Family Singers” by Maria Augusta von Trapp-when they bought the original farm in Stowe, they almost looked Amish in their Trachten (clothing from Austria)–and daughter Hedwig of blessed memory was trying to learn to make homemade shoes–I’m all for the idea if a person can somehow get the arches right and make sure they’re durable!! Of course, we all know of the success of the Trapp family (the lodge is still owned & operated in Stowe, VT by youngest son Johannes von Trapp)and their inspiring story–which, like many of the Amish television and media portrayals bears LITTLE to NO resemblance to the media version in “The Sound of Music”–to me, the real story was so much more interesting–I have 2 of their CDs and their music was better too–sort of like the difference between that John Schmid CD (terrible vocal technique–a subject for other times) and a true well-rehearsed group of trained singers!!!!

    2. Mary Yoder


      I am sticking my nose in here again, as I loved the comment of Joseph Toth. I agree wholeheartedly and my sincere wish is that we won’t change much at all. Our life is so much easier than it was for my parents. Me being 53 yrs old, I want it to never change, which won’t happen.
      As so often is the case, we want to think the world won’t last much longer than our alloted time on earth. Is that also a normal English/Amish conception?

      1. Yes I think that is universal Mary. Is that because we–Amish or English–are a little too confident our ways are best? Still, you have to stick with what you believe in. By the way, glad you stuck your nose in.

      2. Joseph Toth

        Great sentiment Mary! I agree wholeheartedly!

    3. Ann B

      slow changes

      There will continue to be gradual changes in many areas, I believe- like technology (probably more universal embracing of things like solar panels, some electric appliances in homes, computers, cell phones). Judging by how much these things have changed in the past 30 years, I’d say that’s a very safe bet. I’m sure there will be some unexpected changes, too. And- there will be some groups among the Amish that will change in reverse- as the mainstream embraces technology more and more, there will be groups that turn from that more and more. I wonder if we’ll see more radical off-shoots among them?
      My mom (who grew up Amish) remembers when the Northern IN Amish decided that young girls had to wear head coverings, too (because they were getting too ‘worldly?’- don’t know!). And- when her mom went to school, she wore dresses not that different from what the more conservative girls of her era were wearing. I’ve seen a few pix and was amazed that she could have been any young girl from the ’20s. I don’t think you’d confuse too many young female church members now with the general population! (The ‘rumspringa’ kids, of course, look like any other teenager, for the most part. But I’m referring to what young church members have to wear.)
      Interesting topic!

      1. Ann B

        I’m also going to guess that more and more areas will allow men working construction and the likes to operate heavy equipment- possibly even own their own. Some of my uncles currently own heavy construction equipment but through someone else- a non-Amish relative or neighbor. ‘Ownership by proxy’… 😉

      2. Ann B

        Yet one more addition! And maybe my aunt’s dream of having central A/C in her home will become reality??? Love this one!

    4. Roberta K.

      the battery powered cart, huge wheels

      I can’t imagine the Amish wanting that noise running around their roads. Talk about “disturbing the peace”! I also agree with the comment about people who talk with their hands – that danger is too great.

    5. Alice Mary

      Ann B, As I was reading these posts, I heard on the radio about the accidental death of a 23 year old Amish man in a sawmill (?) accident. Unfortunately, more of these types of accidents will occur because, and I agree with you, more Amish will need to be “allowed” too work in such industries in order to provide for their ever growing population. There’s just so much farmland left…I don’t think agriculture alone will be able to sustain Amish culture, unfortunately.

      Solar power, too, will play a part in what to me seem like inevitable changes for the Amish. But I hope, for your Aunt’s sake (as well as any menopausal woman) 🙂 that AC will someday be adopted!

      Alice Mary

      1. Ann B

        I should just pass that on to her! She’s pretty independent- maybe she’ll just do it and see what happens! 🙂

    6. What was it like?

      Since my ancestors landed in Philly in 1734, I’ve often wondered what it was like speaking German, learning English and living along side the Amish. Everyone used the same technology, and survived with the same means. Just different religions I guess. It took 50 years for the tombstones to change from German to English and my name to change from Lang to Long. So that must have been the transition period when English ways differed from the Amish.
      Fort Pitt (Pittsburgh) and Philadelphia were the only existing cities in PA at the time, and my ancestors bred horses and built wagons to move freight between the two towns. Native Indians were the main factor, but the settlers must have encountered Amish migrating into the state. I’ve never read about Indian massacres of Amish settlers like the problems the other migrant settlers had moving north through Penn’s Woods. Perhaps the reason they stayed in the fertile area of Lancaster County was due to having protection from Philly as well. (Regiments were set up at forts)Farther north remained Indian territory that took many generations to settle. This is where it seems the Amish stayed behind. As families migrated north, many were faced with siblings and family splits leaning to the British side and many defected to Canada. With everything going on with the British Navy patroling our shores, (we were still a part of Britain paying tax to them) and the Revolutionary War, survival was the primary focus of their life. So being concerned with how a group that seemed strange to our fast changing new world, they probably didn’t give much thought to those small settlements and their slightly different behavior back then.

      1. Mary

        You must not have ever read the account of the massacre of the Amish Hochstetler Family by the Indians. There are several books written about the account.

    7. Debbie H

      Longing for the past

      I think we all long for the past (good ole days) as we grow older. I think that is why retro is so popular. I remember when anything of the 50’s era was popular, then the 60’s, 70’s, now the 80’s. When I saw the Fall previews I was shocked to see a sitcom set in the 80’s as if that was so long ago. Granted from the preview I saw it is not accurate because I never spoke to my children using those words and tone, but the fact that kids today see it as quaint amazes me. Young couples today see homes from the 80’s and 90’s as “dated” and turn their nose up. Yes, the Amish have changed over the years, but so slowly we English do not notice much. The important things to the Amish remain the same however, God and family. This will always keep them different from us.

    8. Rachel

      I will not try to guess what kind of technologies the Amish will allow in 50-100 years for I’m sure that there will be technology that we haven’t even thought of yet. I do however think that the Amish will continue to have more diversity of occupations. 100 years ago it was unfathomable that so many Amish men would not be farmers and today it is reality. We may even see them pursuing jobs that would require more education, such as doctors.
      I believe that they will also no longer allow something that they do now, and that is farming tobacco. It has only been in the last fifty years that popular culture has turned against tobacco and as of yet the Amish still farm it but that will change. Nearly all other conservative groups no longer support tobacco crops, with the exceptions being the ‘Piker’ and the ’35er’ Mennonites.

    9. Annmarie

      I loved this post because as I have stated I am an absolute lover of the good ole days….or what I perceive them to be. I think that the Amish communities might slightly change as to be able to get by in OUR ever-changing society. However, a change in profession, or some more modern equipment in the field does NOT change their deep spiritual beliefs. I believe those to be unyielding. I believe that their attitudes of compassion, mercy, and all their actions to glorify The Lord will not be broken by our descent of being a society that behaves immoral, unethical and ungodly.

    10. Ed

      This is fun! Here’s my stab at life with the Amish 50 years hence:

      1) The Amish population will continue to grow at an far greater rate than the general population.

      2) At least one State or Federal agency will cull statistics from the Amish or another Plain groups on agricultural output.

      3) By either intention or or urban spread, a few Amish groups will take up residence in cities.

      4) At least one Amish community will take root in a continent outside the New World (ie, in Europe, Asia or Africa)

      5) The Amish will be embrace biotechnology in the form of GMO crops offering better yields and other desirable characteristics. Some will even experiment with creating new GMO seeds themselves.

      Happy to discuss my reasons for each with anyone, or to hear counterpoints!

      1. Very interesting Ed. I think either # 3 or 4 of your points are the hardest for me to see, though I am not sure which I feel is less/more likely of the two. Probably the one on cities, though I guess it depends what you define as a “city” 🙂 And yes, am curious to hear more if you wish to elaborate.

        1. Ed

          To elaborate: My Predictions

          My reasoning behind my predictions:

          #1 Population growth exceeding general pop. growth rate-
          –This is probably the easiest prediction as this has been going on for at least several decades now and will likely continue.

          #2 State or Federal Agency will use Amish agricultural date-
          –I understand this already happens in Belize. I don’t know the specifics, and arguably the Plain population of America is much more diffused and therefore harder to gather statistics from. But I think there could be whole lot of very useful “data mining” of Amish communities.

          #3 Some Amish take up residence in cities-
          –Urban sprawl is one way this could happen. Another is by Amish moving to cities, say for factory jobs. However it happens, some Amish might find a lot to like about cities. Transportation without a motor vehicle is a LOT easier in a big city with public transportation options. Huge potential markets exist for Amish products or in construction trades. The Hasidic Jews, are another poster mentioned, are one example of a very distinct religious community that maintains their traditions in highly urban settings.

          #4 New Communities in Africa, Asia or Europe-
          –Based on my owns travels/residence abroad, there are a lot of opportunities – from the orderly, highly entrepreneurial denizens of Asia, to massive rural tracts begging for skilled farmers in Africa. I’ll admit, there’s a lot of challenges, but given how mobile people have become I would not be surprised if some person with ties to both the Amish and to another country acted as a “cultural bridge” of sorts and helps a group make such a move.

          #5 GMO Crops —
          –This is kind of obvious, given the Amish interest in farming. I bet some are using GMO seeds now. There is burgeoning “do it yourself” GMO movement emerging (one such independent project was funded on Kickstarter), and in a few years it I bet we’ll see lots of people, Amish included, “hacking” tomato seeds, getting better yields, tastier crops, etc.

          1. Amish in the city and on other continents

            Thanks Ed, interesting elaboration.

            I just think the biggest roadblock to #3 happening is the Amish tenet of separation, even if that has eroded somewhat. I have an Amish friend who says he enjoys his occasional visits for a day to the city, but just for a day. The Hasidic Jews example is interesting, I don’t know much of anything on how successfully the counter the temptations of faster city life but have always found the idea of a plain religious group in America’s largest urban setting fascinating.

            On #4, if it happened I could see this happening first with a New Order group. In fact I’ve even heard some out-loud wondering along the lines of a community in another land from an Amish friend who has visited both Africa and Haiti under the auspices of mission work. Amish have briefly lived in South America but none do today.

    11. Slightly-Handled-Order-Man

      in to the nearer distant future

      If space travel improves dramatically, the Amish will populate their own little world to live their own society on an unpopulated planet. Although they’ll only travel to other “sites” every few hundred years.

      1. Planet Yoder in the Hershberger Galaxy?

        1. Slightly-Handled-Order-Man

          the planet Yoder

          But interestingly, we English will still visit planet Yoder to see their quaint lifestyle, and be a bit of a tourist pain/gain, so that probably won’t change at all.

    12. Janina

      Interesting thoughts here, and fun to make predictions. Not sure if we’ll all be around to see what comes true of it, but I’ll take my guess.

      As Debbie H says, I also believe the same things will remain important to the Amish, being their beliefs, values and family. This is also what I found when studying the publications Die Botschaft and Family Life for my master’s thesis. I compared recent texts with texts 35-30 years ago and concluded that the main things that changed are their occupations (less farming than what is used to be) and their acceptance of technology. Their values and beliefs remained pretty much the same (at least in the texts I studied).

      Therefore I also believe that in the future they won’t change much. They might accept some more forms of “modern technology”, they might start careers in other occupations, but they will keep on deciding on what to accept or reject, based on how it will influence their family life, community life and bond with each other. And change would probably come more slowly than in the “English” world (or the European for that matter).

      I do wonder about their growing rate though. I know they double about every 20 years, if I’m not mistaken? Not sure if it’s possible to keep growing at that rate, but at least it’ll only take another 20 years to have a first impression about how that is going. 🙂

    13. Carolyn B

      I would like to see the city dwelling urban Amish/conservative Mennonites and become their neighbor. Thanks, Ed, for this happy prediction.

      Erik, thanks for this. I too enjoy the comments as much as your articles.

      1. Dirk

        I think they would look very similar to the city dwelling Chasidic Jewish communities.

    14. TOM-GA

      what will life be like in 50-100 years

      Hopefully, more Amish will be farming!!!When I was growing up in the city, we had a farmers market where farmer in the rural areas would bring their crop to town and sell at the market. This disappeared during the sixties and seventies. In the last few years we are seeing farmers markets coming back as people want to buy local. Some of the farmers operate on five to ten acres. With new understanding of the soil, new plant that produce more, I see Amish farming on five to ten acres and making living. They are good craftsmen and that would be their winter job. They will still be using horses and family to farm their land. There are produce auctions cropping up where they can sell their produce and businesses are seeking it. Their independence and Religion will survive and hopefully in a agriculture setting.

    15. Dave

      Amish + 100

      These are my hopes:

      1> Their church model remains intact but they encourage more personal Bible Study.

      2> They continue to colonize the 49 continental US. They have something many people adore. There are also many failing economic areas; central NY state, Appalachia, etc that could benefit economically. A district is an economic bulkhead. They buy old farms and homes, restore these properties and create sustainable economically viable communities.

      3> They promote Amish values and life style to recruit new believers from the English. They need new DNA. They could adopt. They have a very high risk of genetic disease, and I believe the limited gene pool creates risk to later generations.

      4> We learn something from their spiritual, community first, simple lifestyle.


      1. Dirk

        Hi Dave, I just have a question regarding more personal Bible study and Bible study groups as it seems that those groups who encourage such things, over time, move further away from biblical obedience and more into worldliness.

        I do not see one group that does Bible study who one can point to and say that they are more obedient to NT commandments than say the Amish are. Whom one can point to and say they follow the Bible better than the Amish do.

        Seems once people begin Bible studies they feel it gives them the right to replace God’s doctrines with their own, such as women can stop wearing head coverings and men can start wearing caps in church, both sexes can start dressing casually to church with women in pants, hair lengths for men and women become personal choice and separation from worldly entertainments are forgotten, not to mention the introduction of a rock and role bands for worship and lets not even go to women elders and pastors.

        I agree with your other points, but on this one I see no benefit of it in other churches, if fact all I see is destruction because of it. I think the Amish elders are wise to insist that only those with spiritual discernment should study the Bible, when the Bible is thrust into the hands of the spiritually blind to discern, the results are bad.

        Just because one can speak does not mean that one can sing, just because one can walk does not mean that one can dance, just because one is baptised as a Christian does not mean that one can understand the depths of the Bible. Biblical discernment is a spiritual gift and not a right that everyone gets.
        I think modern Christianity with their Bible studies and resulting worldliness proves this.

        Romans 10:13-15 is quite clear that salvation is by hearing the Word through a preacher and not through personal Bible study.
        The Amish insistance that their flock learn the Bible through their preachers and not through personal Bible study has this chapter and verses as its foundation.

        NB, a ban against Bible study is not a ban against daily Bible readings or teachings, which is compulsory.

    16. Slightly-Handled-Order-Man

      No, thank you, Erik (30,000 comments)!

      Erik thanked us readers for creating 30,000 or more comments throughout the history of his Amish America blog. On behalf of everyone who has contributed to the 30,000+ comments over the years since the launch of Amish America, thank you Erik for being the glue that brings all of us together through your highly insightful, sometimes whimsical and down to earth dispatches into Amish life for us to enjoy, thank you for being a knowledgeable and fair moderator in all sorts of varied discussions and debates.

      On behalf of all of us, I hope Amish America continues to provide great Amish information into the future. You, Erik, have done a great job, in fact, as you noted, everyone has provided a lot of fantastic supplemental information and that is one of the wonderful and unique things about Amish America.

    17. Brad Igou's look at the Amish in 2100 AD

      While doing this post, I failed to recall that a while back Brad Igou wrote a playful look at what the Amish might look like a hundred years from now.

      From the opening:

      Part 1: Amish Transportation

      Now in the year 2100, cars are naturally something from a bygone era. The Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. opened its National Museum of the Automobile several years ago in 2078, and it continues to attract large numbers of visitors. The visions of all of those old 1990’s science fiction movies have partly come true. We are all riding around in flying cars known as “airmobiles.” Naturally, any group of people like the Amish who continue to make use of cars, those land machines on rubber tires, attracts many a curious visitor. So today we will take off in our airmobile and fly over to Lancaster’s Amish Country .

      I think you’ll enjoy the rest: http://www.amishnews.com/2100AD.html

    18. Missy

      One thing that has changed for the Amish in the clothing area is that in some districts they use lots of double knit fabric for women’s dresses and men’s shirts. I’ve even seen the denim look double knit broadfalls. This, I am sure, is because it needs no ironing.