16 December 2019, The Tablet

'OK dreamers!' Pope speaks up for older generations

Pope Francis, 83 tomorrow, tells older people their dreams are fundamental for the future of the young

'OK dreamers!' Pope speaks up for older generations

Pope Francis in Rome on the eve of his 83rd birthday.
VATICAN POOL/CPP / IPA/IPA MilestoneMedia/PA Images

First we had 'OK boomers', how the young refer to their annoying elders. The boomers fought back with 'OK zoomers!'

Now Pope Francis, 82, has spoken up for those older even than the baby boomers of the 1960s. He calls them the "dreamers", and he says "the prayer is strong" in them.  

"The elderly are dreamers – dreams, however, full of memory, not empty, vain, like those of certain advertisements; the dreams of the elderly are imbued with memory, and therefore fundamental for the journey of the young, because they are the roots. From the elderly comes the sap that makes the tree grow, makes it blossom, gives new fruits," he said.

"The elderly, grandparents have a unique and special ability to grasp the most problematic situations. And when they pray for these situations, their prayer is strong, it's powerful!"

He was speaking just hours before he celebrates his 83rd birthday tomorrow, and days after he celebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.

Older people should be regarded as a "resource" and not a "burden", he said.

"The biggest challenge that society will face in the coming years is to promote the human resources of the elderly within the community with ever greater effectiveness."

He was addressing members of the National Association of Elderly Workers, itself celebrating 70 years since its foundation, at the Vatican Apostolic Palace.

"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. They are the memory of a people," he said.

This was demonstrated by their contribution to voluntary work. "Older people in good health can offer a few hours of their time to look after people in need, thus enriching themselves. Volunteering is an experience that is good both for those who receive it and for those who do it. In fact, commitment to others is able to counteract the perception of loneliness, improve cognitive performance and increase mental well-being."

Post-retirement and once children had flown the nest, volunteering helped promote what is known as "active ageing", the Pope said. 

Older people can work with the young to build 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. Old age is a time of grace, in which the Lord renews his call to us: he calls us to preserve and pass on the faith, he calls us to pray, especially to intercede; it calls us to be close to those in need."

Too often the elderly are discarded as sick, disabled, dependent, isolated, besieged by fears, left aside, with a weak identity for the loss of a social role. 

Likewise the young, because they have no work.

But society needed to take care. "The future – and this is not an exaggeration – will be in the dialogue between young and old. If the grandparents do not talk to the grandchildren, there will be no future. We are all called to counter this poisonous culture of waste. We are called to build tenaciously a different, more welcoming, more human, more inclusive society, which does not need to discard those who are weak in body and mind."



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