Do we treat the elderly like our junk mail?
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What do you do on the weekends? Host a party? Play a sport? Visit friends while you take a road trip? You’d probably never guess how Mary spends her weekends. Watch the video below to find out.
If you want to spend your weekend like Mary, first get your junk mail. Then, strip it, cut it into smaller pieces, put it in a bag, and take it to the garbage.
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“Don’t laugh,” she says before admitting what she does to pass time on her Saturdays and Sundays. You can see her sitting on her couch in the video, a delicate 98-year-old woman, stripping junk mail all weekend.
She does this because she doesn’t know what else to do, and everyone one else has moved on in their life. Mary has to do something to keep from “going nuts.” Why would she potentially “go nuts?” Because she lives alone, no one calls her, and she can’t drive herself anywhere. When those making the video come and bring Mary’s friend an employee from the senior center, she is so happy that she cries from joy. Her friend cries too, never having thought what the seniors do with themselves on the weekend without the senior center.
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“Call your grandma.” The video description reminds us that the elderly are alive, but forgotten.
Not resentful of her old age, Mary thanks God that she can still get up and go to the senior center to be with her friends. Those like Mary teach us simply by their existence. Their souls are alive, full of vitality, and yearning for companionship. Imagine all the stories they have to tell. Looking at the seniors in the video, you can tell that they have their own lively personalities – one is loud and talkative, another wears barrettes in her hair, and another is quiet and reserved as she watches the others. No one could question that they are fully alive.
The Catholic Church opposes euthanasia for that very reason: “Those whose lives are diminished or weakened deserve special respect. Sick or handicapped persons should be helped to lead lives as normal as possible” (Catechism, 2276). Older generations are not meant to be neglected or abandoned; they are meant to be loved just as we all are. It is a part of the pro-life movement to not only oppose abortion but also oppose euthanasia of the elderly because every life matters, no matter what age or what level of dependency. The Catholic Church calls us to respect all life; therefore, you are called to also respect your elders, who retain the same amount of human dignity as they did when they were young. So why are those like Mary left to cut up junk mail in solitude on the weekends?
There may be many explanations as to why Mary is alone, but none of them are an excuse for neglect. These seniors are people with the same basic human needs as the rest of us, only they are closer to the end of their life than to the beginning. That’s even more reason to cherish them! They are precious even to their very last day.
With an act of kindness as simple as visiting with Mary and holding her hands, those who made the video brought Mary to tears. She hugged them all,(in that loving, grandmotherly way), and said she’d never forget it. No one had to restore Mary to perfect physical health or throw an elaborate party or buy her a cruise trip; they just visited her.
In bulletins, parishes usually list the names of the sick, homebound, and those in nursing homes. Pray for them. Try to visit nursing homes regularly, and you can meet new friends and learn many stories and even receive advice. One day, you will find yourself counted among the elderly generation: who will you want visiting you, living with you, writing you, or calling you? What will you want to be doing? What will you spend your weekends praying for as you strip the junk mail?
The elderly are still alive, and anyone who is alive has the right to be treated as the rest of those living are treated. Visit them. Talk to them. Pray for them. Tell them about your life. Play games with them. Or just hold their hands.
“They are no different than when they were when they were younger,” the lady at the senior center commented, understanding that a person is not his or her physical age or ability. A person is a person because of their soul’s human dignity given to them by God.
1. What would you do to spend your time when you are elderly – no longer working and no longer able to move around as easily?
2. “Making the elderly happy–that is what counts!” Saint Jeanne Jugan said. It is a work of mercy to visit the sick and imprisoned. What do you do to help the elderly in your family and in your community?
3. Who do you know that is elderly and teaches you great lessons about life through their example?
4. Why is it important to have a strong spiritual life, especially as you grow older?
5. Reflect on Pope Francis’s General Audience address from March 4, 2015 at St. Peter’s Square, especially in the relation between the youth and the elderly: “ … We are all a little fragile, the elderly. Some, however, are particularly weak, many are alone, and affected by illness. Some depend on the indispensable care and attention of others. Will we take a step back for this? Will we abandon them to their fate? A society without closeness, in which gratuitousness and selfless affection — even among strangers — are disappearing, is a perverse society. The Church, faithful to the Word of God, cannot tolerate these degenerations. A Christian community in which closeness and gratuitousness are no longer considered indispensable, would lose its soul with this. Where there is no honor to the elderly, there is no future for the young.”