3 Life Lessons We Can Learn from Senior Citizens
Pro-life advocates devote a great deal of energy to ending abortion, which is absolutely crucial. But pro-life work goes deeper than that. As Catholics, we believe in the dignity of life from conception to natural death. This means that today, when people are living longer than ever before, we are seeing more and more issues related to the “natural death” end of the spectrum. Our senior citizens are at risk of facing loneliness, abuse, neglect, and even euthanasia. If we are truly to be pro-life, we must be cognizant of the fact that there is dignity and worth in every human life, and at every stage—no matter how materially productive that person is, and no matter how much assistance they need.
Younger people have the duty to protect and defend the dignity of the senior citizens who are most at risk. But they also have the responsibility—and privilege—to learn quite a bit from their brothers and sisters who have decades of life experience. Senior citizens, likewise, are charged with passing along their knowledge for the good of humanity. Speaking to the elderly in 2014, Pope Francis said,
“Old age, in particular, is a time of grace, in which the Lord will renew his call: calls us to preserve and transmit the faith, calls us to pray, especially to intercede; calls us to be close to those who maybe in need. The elderly - grandparents [especially] - have a capacity to understand the most difficult situations: a great ability - and when they pray for these situations, their prayer is strong. It is powerful."
Here are three of the most important life lessons young people can learn from senior citizens:
1. How to accept help.
One of the most difficult things to do, especially for young people, is to admit the need for help and accept that help from other people. We like to believe that we are self-sufficient and that we can take care of our own problems. As Christians, we know this by faith to be false; we know that we do not depend on ourselves, but on God. Senior citizens understand this concept better than anyone. Often, they bravely face health problems and encounter limitations to what they can do, and they let others guide them through these trials. These seniors have learned the humility of accepting help. Younger people can learn from them to not only develop humility, but also to create the space that allows other people to perform works of charity.
2. How to be patient.
They say that time speeds up as you get older. This is true, to a certain extent—when you are older, an hour can fly by in an instant instead of dragging on, as it seemed to during childhood. On the other hand, life events stretch over much longer periods as you get older. Whether by planning for retirement, working on a personal project, or receiving treatment for an illness, senior citizens have learned from experience that the important things in life don’t come from instant gratification. They require patience. Seniors can show young people how valuable that waiting period can be, and the fruits that come from it.
3. How to live in historical context.
Senior citizens have witnessed more than all younger generations, both personally and globally. Because of this, they are the best candidates to show younger people how our current moment fits into a larger historical context. This gives everyone a clearer and wiser understanding of how to live in the present. Sometimes, young people assume that their elders are out of touch and that they just don’t understand the times we live in now. In truth, they often understand the present best of all, since they know where it came from. While we don’t have to take their word as law, we would certainly benefit from listening to the wisdom of senior citizens.
Today, we pray for all senior citizens, that their love and work may bear fruit during this uniquely beautiful stage of their lives. You can learn more about the blessings of aging on CatholicTV’s original series Aging Gracefully.