"Where the elderly are not honored there is no future for the young." This was the message Pope Francis delivered to a crowd in St. Peter's Square yesterday.
In a society where youth is celebrated, it has become all too easy to turn a blind eye to those who have grown old. Often, they are seen as a burden, someone who has to be taken care of.
Rather than considering our seniors as a burden, Pope Francis reminded his audience that the Bible refers to the elderly as "a storehouse of wisdom".
The Pope also told a story of woman who hadn't had a visit from her family in nearly eight months. Life gets busy and visiting isn't always easy. A week all too quickly turns into a month, and then another month has passed again before you know it when you're juggling a career and a family, but we have to better. We all have to do better. We cannot discard our seniors to quietly wither away in solitude.
Companionship is vital to our wellbeing throughout life, but especially as we age. Whether it's a relative or paid caregiver, seniors benefit from the conversation, the comradery, and the extra care.
Isolation can negatively affect both physical and mental health. Seniors who are lonely and isolated are more likely to report also having poor physical and/or mental health, as reported in a 2009 study using data from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project. Regular visits, phone calls, or even mail can reduce the feelings of loneliness.
And we all should remember that if we are lucky, we will someday be elderly ourselves. "If we do not learn to look after and to respect our elderly, we will be treated in the same way," Pope Francis warned.
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