Valuing and cherishing the elderly
The author Nicci Gerrard, interviewed on 19 October 2014 in The Sunday Times (Style magazine), spoke tenderly of her parents and understanding the value of old age. She says “to be old is to have lived a life, something we forget when all we see is age”. This reinforces recent words from Pope Francis and should make us stop and consider not only society’s attitudes to older people, but also the use of Residential homes, many of which the inspectorate deem are often offering “appalling” levels of Care.
Now in her mid-fifties, Nicci reflects, in the article, on her life and feelings and the realisation that the spirit never dies, whatever one’s age. “The old can imagine what it is like to be young, but the young cannot imagine what it is like to be old, frail”. Nicci lists all that one can lose in old age, but ” be full of memory and the past.
The Twilight Hour’ by Nicci Gerrard will be published on Thursday 23 October 2014. Gerrard’s highly readable domestic dramas often bring a dash of well-judged gothic to the proceedings. In ‘The Twilight Hour’, Eleanor Wright, now in her nineties and blind, is attempting to tidy away her life before her children stumble on anything they shouldn’t.
Celebrating the richness of the elderly
In the lead up to the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, the Pope Francis celebrated the richness of older people and called attention to the elderly as an extremely important aspect of the family at a meeting, entitled “The Blessing of a Long Life”
Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family noted the significance of the event saying”It is the first time the Pope will meet with a significant number of elderly people. It is not just any audience. It’s meant to underline that the Church, the politicians, administrators, and the economical system need to reflect on the importance of these advanced years in our life.”
Pope Francis also warned of the culture in which elderly people are effectively abandoned in institutions, where they may suffer physical neglect or loneliness. Francis told the group in St Peter’s Square that older people and children were particularly at risk because they were not economically productive. But this culture of “discarding” human beings “hurts our world”, he said.
In the recent address the Pope discussed how the elderly make an indispensable – contribution to society, most importantly in their conservation of hard-earned wisdom and experience. “There are times,” said Pope Francis, “when generations of young people, for complex historical and cultural reasons, feel a deeper need to be independent from their parents, ‘breaking free’, as it were, from the legacy of the older generation.” . Pope Francis went on to say that a society which only values the young is one in which “seriously impoverishes everyone”
Not only are many of those in care homes undervalued and unloved, but recent Uk studies show that 90% of dementia patients in Care homes are receiving inadequate care, the inspectorate has described much of the Care as “awful” and said the quality of care is often appalling. There is also a significant rise in use of deprivation orders in some areas to deal with difficult care home patients.
A change in society’s attitude towards the part that the elderly have played, during their lives, and continue to play, enriching others with wisdom, experience love and kindness is surely overdue.
Pope Francis, Faith and the elderly