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Viva gli Anziani

pope and elderly

We are in deep recession in Ireland at the moment and are not eagerly looking forward to a budget next week which will weigh very heavily on the old and the needy. I am 80 myself. I am reminded every day that my memory is deteriorating. I am often stumped for words in the middle of a sentence. It can be very embarassing.

So I was interested in a visit Pope Benedict made to the Sant’ Egidio Community's "Viva gli Anziani" rest home for the elderly in Rome last week. He made no attempt to hide his age - he's 85 - and didn't refrain from leaning on his walking stick 

According to Benedict, old age is not a reason to hang up one’s boots. “It is good to be elderly!" he said,  "At every age it is necessary to know how to discover the presence and the blessing of the Lord, and the richness that this brings,”  one is "valuable to society, even in suffering and sickness,” he said.

And yet, most of society has not yet learnt how to recognise how valuable the elderly are and how to make the most of this fact. Life expectancy is rising in all cultures and this is putting pressure on State resources and coffers and risks triggering a destructive rivalry between old and new generations. The Pope says, “I well know the difficulties and limitations of age, and am aware that for many people these difficulties are aggravated by the economic crisis. At a certain age, one turns to the past with regret for the loss of youth, its energy and plans for the future. At times our perspective is veiled with sadness, as we consider this phase as the twilight of life. Often, society, dominated by the logic of efficiency and profit is not able to appreciate this gift and considers the elderly to be unproductive and useless.”

"But", said the Pope, "it is time to rediscover the wealth they bring as a source of wisdom. The quality of a society, of a civilisation, may also be judged by how it treats its elderly and by the place reserved for them in communal life. To give space to the elderly is to give space to life!"


It's a problem. Our society deals with aging and death mostly by ignoring them -- which leaves people very badly prepared when they arrive, nonetheless.

(It is annoying when the word one wants has gone into hiding. It helps me to imagine a picture of what I want to say, then describe it.)
Yes, forgetfulness, can be a problem. The word one wants is there in the head but just won't come to the tongue.
I do the Irish Times Crossword every night and, apart from occasional technical terms, usually manage to finish it. They tell me it helps.
Heck, I forget the word I want to say all the time. If that were the only indication of dementia, I'd be #1 on the list.

Modern society is very poorly designed for old people. Of course there are many new inventions all the time that are difficult to get used to (and so often are just ignored), making the old person seem irrelevant or even stupid. Also, because so few people live in the same town they grew up in with all the generations together, we don't have a natural experience with the aging. So aging becomes a problem rather than a regular part of life. The wisdom of age was often a deep knowledge gained from the generations living in the same place for so long. A single 80 year old in a new environment doesn't seem to have much wisdom to give, being so out of context.
And youth today seem to have so very little time for, or patience with, the aged - even of their own family.
Not, of course, that you have any bias at all on the topic! :o)

Seriously though, I felt that the previous Pope had to experience a personal calvary at the end and I'm not sure how I feel about that.
Yes, indeed. I do believe that he bore his infirmities to the end (without resigning) because, as the present man says, the old and the infirm can also give witness in their lives by bearing their suffering in Christian patience and resignation.