The Value of Old Age

When you think of old age, what comes to mind? Do you find it a welcoming thought, or is it something you would rather avoid?

Our society has become increasingly hostile towards age. The cosmetic and skincare industry markets “anti-aging” products, as if a cream or serum can reverse the natural course of our body as it grows older. As a result of this collective hostility and avoidance, our elderly generations are often viewed as burdensome rather than cherished.

The Holy Father calls old age “one of the most urgent issues facing the human family at this time.” He points out that there have never been so many elderly as there are right now, and they are at risk of being “discarded” by society.

Beginning a new series of general audiences about the meaning and value of old age, Pope Francis spoke about a new phenomenon wherein our population has been skewed. While we are living longer and the birth rate has declined, there are many more elderly people and less young people than in previous generations. This imbalance has caused issues in society, the economy, and the family.

Whereas societies once revered the elderly and their valuable wisdom, we now view youth as the epitome of life. 

“The exaltation of youth as the only age worthy of embodying the human ideal, coupled with contempt for old age as frailty, decay, disability, has been the dominant image of twentieth-century totalitarianism,” remarked the Holy Father.

Instead of seeing only young, strong, healthy members of society as valuable, we should instead broaden our view of what our grandparents and elders have to offer. 

In addition, Pope Francis calls for communities to work towards providing more than simply the most basic levels of medical care to our aging population, leaving them otherwise alone and disrespected—they deserve dignity, respect, and community.

It is vital to the health of all generations that this balance is restored. “The alliance between generations, which restores all ages of life to the human, is our lost gift and we have to get it back. It must be found, in this culture of waste and in this culture of productivity,” he said.

In the coming weeks, the pope says that he hopes to inspire us to reflect on the gifts that old age can bring to all of civilization.

He explains, “Old age is a gift for all stages of life. It is a gift of maturity, of wisdom.”

Lindsey is a wife, mother, and contributing author at Relevant Radio. She holds a degree in Journalism and Advertising from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Lindsey enjoys writing, baking, and liturgical living with her young family.