Vatican City, Dec 16, 2019 / 11:00 am (CNA).- The elderly are crucial to a society that is respectful of the rights of all, Pope Francis told leaders and members of Italy’s National Association of Elderly Workers on Monday. Speaking at an audience commemorating the 70th anniversary of the organization’s founding, the pope said that “communion” among generations is vital for human dignity and a healthy society.
“Older people, on a social level, should not be considered as a burden, but for what they really are, that is, a resource and a wealth,” said Pope Francis. The elderly, he said, are “a memory of the people,” and valuable contributors to society.
“The biggest challenge that society will face in the coming years is to promote ever more effectively the human resources of the elderly within the community,” he said. The elderly have a “wisdom and experience,” that is key to creating “a world that is more respectful of everyone’s rights.”
The pope also highlighted the great contribution made through the eldarly’s ability and time to engage in volunteer work, something which benefits both the eldarly themselves and society as a whole.
Francis praised the benefits of what he called “active aging” in helping to provide people continued dignity in their active lives and noted the importance of fostering a “community of solidarity” among generations.
“The dreams of the elderly are imbued with memory, and therefore fundamental for the journey of the young, because they are the roots,” he said. The elderly are a “sap” that enable the young people to grow.
Old age, said the pope, should be viewed as a “season of dialogue” between the old and the young.
“The future of a people necessarily presupposes a dialogue and an encounter between the elderly and the young for the construction of a more just, more beautiful, more supportive, more Christian society,” he said. “Young people are the strength of the journey of a people and the elderly reinvigorate this force with memory and wisdom.”
He added that the elderly, particularly grandparents, have a “unique and special ability” to handle difficult situations.
“And when they pray for these situations, their prayer is strong, it's powerful,” he said. Grandparents, “are entrusted with a great task: to transmit the experience of life, the story of a family, a community, a people.”
The pope also condemned caricatures of the eldarly as “sick, disabled, dependent, isolated, besieged by fears, left aside, and with a weak identity.” Instead, he said, old age should be viewed as a “season of gift and the season of dialogue” and repeated his condemnation of a culture that treats people as disposable resources – old or young.
“Unfortunately, many times young people are discarded, because they have no work, and the elderly are discarded with the pretense of maintaining a ‘balanced’ economic system, at the center of which there is not the human person, but money,” said Francis, adding, “And this is wrong.”
The future, he said, would consist of a dialogue between young people and the elderly. Everyone is “called to counter this poisonous culture of waste,” and that if grandparents do not communicate with their grandchildren, “there will be no future.”
With these dialogues, society will become more welcoming, human, and inclusive, a society “which does not need to discard those who are weak in body and mind,” he said.
“This dialogue is the future!”