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‘It’s wonderful being old,’ says Pope at care home for the elderly

By on Monday, 12 November 2012

Pope Benedict and, right, Andrea Riccardi, an Italian government minister, pictured during the visit (Photo: AP)

Pope Benedict and, right, Andrea Riccardi, an Italian government minister, pictured during the visit (Photo: AP)

Presenting himself as “an elderly man visiting his peers”, Pope Benedict XVI visited a Rome residence for the elderly today, urging the residents to see their age as a sign of God’s blessing and urging society to value their presence and wisdom.

“Though I know the difficulties that come with being our age, I want to say, it’s wonderful being old,” the 85-year-old Pope said during a morning visit to the residence run by the lay Community of Sant’Egidio.

The residence includes apartments for independent living as well as rooms for those requiring more skilled care. Younger members of the Sant’Egidio Community give their time assisting with and visiting the residents, who include an elderly couple from Haiti whose home was destroyed in the 2010 earthquake.

Walking with his white-handled black cane, the Pope visited several of the residents in their rooms and apartments before addressing them and members of Sant’Egidio in the garden.

One of the residents, 91-year-old Enrichetta Vitali, told the Pope: “I don’t eat so much anymore, but prayer is my nourishment.” She asked the Pope to “pray that I don’t lose my memory so I can keep remembering people in my prayers”.

The Pope told those gathered at the residence on the Janiculum Hill that in the Bible a long life is considered a blessing from God, but often today society, which is “dominated by the logic of efficiency and profit, doesn’t welcome it as such”.

“I think we need a greater commitment, beginning with families and public institutions, to ensure the elderly can stay in their homes” and that they can pass on their wisdom to younger generations.

“The quality of a society or civilisation can be judged by how it treats the elderly,” he said.

Pope Benedict also insisted on recognition of the dignity and value of all human life, even when “it becomes fragile in the years of old age”.

“One who makes room for the elderly, makes room for life,” the pope said. “One who welcomes the elderly, welcomes life.”

The Pope told the residents that he knows the aged face difficulties, especially in countries where the global economic crisis has hit hard. And, he said, the elderly can be tempted to long for the past when they had more energy and were full of plans for the future.

However, the Pope said, “life is wonderful even at our age, despite the aches and pains and some limitations”, he said.

“At our age, we often have the experience of needing other’s help, and this happens to the Pope as well,” he told the residents.

Pope Benedict said they need to see the help they require as a gift of God, “because it is a grace to be supported and accompanied and to feel the affection of others”.

  • Stephen

    God bless you for this story!  Two thoughts…
    Even with sickness and frailty, would we really want to go back to younger days?

    If there were no chance at everlasting life with the One who is Love, then old age and suffering would be most tragic.  

  • Jeannine

    The title of this article say it all. I’m inclining to agree.

  • Jon Brownridge

    Actually, being old is not that wonderful!

  • Joanelle

    The Holy Father looks to me like he has lost a little weight.  God bless him.

  • gabriel_syme

    My Grandfather, nominally protestant, used to say “It’s hell being old”.

    I love(d) my Grandfather very much, but on this one I am throwing my lot in with Benedict, I like the cut of his jib much better on this!

  • KyPerson

    My father is 91 and had a stroke a few months ago which robbed him of much of his memory.  My mother is immobile from arthritis and also had a stroke which has confined her to a nursing home.
    Old age isn’t for sissies.  

  • GildasWiseman

    It is a sad fact that being elderly can be a painful and difficult cross to bear for many people. Other people are not so tried. I am in my sixties and have a lot of pain. My mother is in her eighties and has horrible arthritis. I thank God that she still retains her mental faculties. 
    May God bless your parents and you.

  • Deodatus

    Age, like all aspects of life, is coloured and even made brilliant by the quality of care and community in which it is lived.  Without this or in a situation where age is demeaned, or considered by others to be a burden, economic or otherwise, it can be a lonely, painful struggle.  Pope Benedict’s lovely photo here is symbolic of the joy and affirmation the Catholic Church so often and in so many ways can and should provide.  May God Bless the Church in her struggle to affirm life in all its aspects, stages and crises as Divine Gift.

  • Jonathan West

    Would that Savita Halappanavar had been given the opportunity to grow old.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/nov/14/savita-halappanavar-medically-unnecessary-death

  • KyPerson

    Thank you so much for your kind words and my prayers are with you.  I am in my sixties and am in excellent health (so far).  I am my father’s caregiver and while he is mobile, he can’t tell you what he had for breakfast half an hour after he finished it.

  • Saharbashir

    i am very impress about that words by Pope Benedict XVI
    ( One who makes room for the elderly, makes room for life,” the pope said. “One who welcomes the elderly, welcomes life.”)

  • StCalder

    There’s nothing “wonderful” about being old when you have to survive the winter worrying about how you are going to feed yourself and heat your home – something you know NOTHING about, having lived in comfort all your days on money given by people less fortunate than yourself

  • catholic reporter

    OPEN LETTER TO POPE BENEDICT XVI:-
    Dear Your Holiness,
    1. The transition at the Chinese leadership passed but without congratulations from your office. It was a great pity. The Chinese Communist Party is here to stay despite what your Chinese advisers might suggest to you. Since Deng Xiao Ping the Party has managed three peaceful transitions of leadership. You need to build your own bridges to China without reference to your diplomats.
    2. You must have your own approach to China rather than depending on the Salesian approach. Many of the Chinese Salesian cardinals have jaundiced views about China based on their own tainted and sour relationships with the Chinese state. Cardinals in HK in the past have regularly provoked the Chinese state by taking part in marches and protests in HK.
    3. Religious groups were responsible for getting Chinese activists from the Tianamen disaster to safety in the west.
    4. What you need to do is to merge the two Catholic churches in People’s Republic of China.
    5. Some concessions have to be made to the official church and to recognise both countries rights to name and approve bishops.
    6. Before the end of your pontificate You need to make a strictly PASTORAL visit to People’s Republic of China soon. During this visit you should stress to the Chinese leadership that the Catholic church is not a threat or competitor with the Chinese State. By your visit you show your goodwill and non-threatening stance and nudge the State to make some progress.  
    7. An isolationist policy cannot work and cannot benefit the Catholics of China.
    8. You cannot wait for them to change before you visit. On the contrary your visit can be a catalyst for chnage. Seize the moment! Act now
    Yours in Christ
    +Catholic reporter
     

  • Sweetjae

    Nonsense. Why dont you say that to your Prime Minister and others who are getting paid on money by people less fortunate that themselves.

    The Catholic Church is the largest charitable organization in the world that have done good for the poorest of humanity, second to NONE! Do you even noticed that?

  • Elle

    It will come to us all (or at least those of us who reach old age), and to some (those who are older already) it will come sooner than for others (eg; the young).

  • Jon Brownridge

     Very well said, Sweetjae.

  • Arden Forester

    I’d say it was “wonderful being old” if you have all your marbles or have lost them completely. My horror is being somewhere in the middle.