“Among the victims of this culture of disposal, I would like to recall in particular the elderly, who are the memory and wisdom of the people.”
- Papa Francisco, in the book ‘Papa Francisco - Who am I to judge? (2017).
“The elderly person is not a stranger. We are the elderly: sooner or later, but inevitably, even if we don't think about it. And if we don't learn to treat the elderly well, we will be treated the same way. ”
We are the elderly
Thanks to the progress of medicine, life has been prolonged: but society has not “opened up” to life! The number of elderly people has multiplied, but our society is not organized enough to make room for them, with just respect and real consideration for their fragility and dignity.
While we are young, we are made to ignore old age, as if it were a disease that must be kept at a distance; when, afterwards, we get old, especially if we are poor, if we are sick without anyone, we experience the gaps of a society programmed for efficiency and, consequently, ignores the elderly. And the elderly are a wealth, they cannot be ignored.
A profit culture insists on making old people look like a weight, a “ballast”. Not only do they not produce, according to that culture, but they are a burden: in short, what is the result of thinking this? They need to be discarded. It is horrible to see the elderly discarded, it is ugly, it is a sin! You don't dare say it openly, but it does! There is something vile about this custom of disposal culture. But we are used to discarding people. We want to remove our growing fear of weakness and vulnerability; but, in this way, the anguish of being abandoned and not receiving help increases in the elderly.
The elderly are men and women, fathers and mothers who were before us on our same road, in our same house, in our daily battle for a dignified life. They are men and women whom we receive a lot. The elderly person is not a stranger. We are the elderly: sooner or later, but inevitably, even if we don't think about it. And if we don't learn to treat the elderly well, we will be treated the same way.
All of us old people are a little fragile. Some, however, are particularly weak, many are alone and affected by disease. Some depend on indispensable care and the attention of others. So will we take a step back? Shall we abandon them to their destination?
The memory value
It is often grandparents who ensure the transmission of great values to their grandchildren, and many people can see that it is precisely to grandparents that they owe their initiation to the Christian life. Their words, their caresses or just their presence help children to recognize that history does not start with them, that they are heirs of a long way and that it is necessary to respect the reality of what precedes us. Those who break ties with history will find it difficult to establish stable relationships and to recognize that they are not the owners of reality. Therefore, care for the elderly makes a difference in a civilization. In a civilization, is attention paid to the elderly? Is there a place for the elderly? This civilization will progress if it knows how to respect the wisdom, the knowledge of the elderly.
The lack of historical memory is a serious defect in our society. It is the immature mentality of the “already passed”. Knowing and being able to take a stand against past events is the only possibility to build a future that makes sense. One cannot educate without memory: “Remember the first days” (Heb 10, 32). The reports of the elderly are very good for children and young people, as they help them to get in touch with the lived history, whether of the family, the neighborhood, or the country.
A family that does not respect and care for their grandparents, who are their living memory, is a disintegrated family; on the contrary, a family that remembers is a family that has a future.
Therefore, in a civilization in which there is no place for the elderly or in which they are discarded for creating problems, this society brings with it the virus of death, since it takes its own roots.
The contemporary phenomenon of feeling orphaned, in terms of discontinuity, lack of roots and an end to the certainties that shape life, challenges us to make our families a place children can take root in the field of a collective history .
(Amoris laetitia, n. 192-193)
- Papa Francisco, in the book ‘Papa Francisco - Who am I to judge? - Forgiveness and tolerance as paths to peace and harmony for each one of us and for the whole world '. [collected and edited by Anna Maria Foli; translation Clara A. Coloto]. Rio de Janeiro: House of the Word; Publisher LeYa, 2017.
"This mentality is not good for society and it is our mission to develop" antibodies "against this way of considering the elderly, or people with disabilities, as if they were lives that are no longer worth living."
- Papa Francisco, in the book ‘Papa Francisco - Who am I to judge? [collected and edited by Anna Maria Foli; translation Clara A. Coloto]. Publisher LeYa, 2017.