Tuesday 2 July 2013

Rome (Italy) - A book covering the forty years of Sant'Egidio service to the elderly

The Community of Sant’Egidio in Rome celebrates this year the beginning of its service to the elderly.
In 1973, in a city that was very different from the current one, in which demographic dynamics surely did not predict a gradual aging of the population, Sant’Egidio had an intuition about what the future would hold. Most of all, it understood the harmful aspects of the world of the elderly, isolation, solitude, the risk of becoming those “wasted lives” Bauman speaks of and which Pope Francis alludes to.
Service has thus become friendship, company, sharing, familiarity. The shelter homes managed by the Community in various Roman neighborhoods as well as in an increasing
 number of cities around the world are a  happy synthesis of Sant’Egidio’s approach to the fragility of old age.
40 years after its inception, the service to the elderly is one of the most widely diffused among communities around the world, not only in the Old Continent but also in the “younger” ones , Africa, Latin America, Asia. Everywhere SantEgidio is present it is close to the elderly, defends their life, accompanies and sustains it.
The 40-year experience of fellowship with the elderly has flowed into a beautiful book by several authors: “La forza degli anni. Lezioni di vecchiaia per giovani e famiglie” (The Strength in the Years: Lessons in old age for the young and the family). An ensemble of essays that reflect upon the condition of the elderly, suggest concrete courses of action, and ask questions about a particular age, its strength and its perspectives.
Yes, age is a strength. Old age, as do all of life’s seasons, has its beauty. As Andrea Riccardi writes in the Introduction to the volume, to be old is not necessarily a shipwreck, it may be a docking in a safe place. The book helps us understand how to live such experience.
This goes beyond the world of Sant’Egidio. Thus far, the book has been presented in various Italian cities, and in dozens of Roman neighborhoods. In municipal offices, parishes, centers for the elderly, rest homes and libraries people of all ages were able to appreciate a wisdom that, though unfashionable, is needed by all because all, we hope, will live to be old. It is a liberation for all of us to learn that “life is not only production”, but “is something richer and more complex”. It is made of affections, hope, exchange. Everyone is needed, no one is wasted. We all need each other’s strength.  

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