Day for Life is celebrated annually by the Catholic Church in Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales. It is a day dedicated to raising awareness of the meaning and value of human life at every stage and in every condition.
This year’s Day for Life will be celebrated in Ireland on Sunday 2 October on the theme ‘Caring for the Older Person’.
Day for Life Message – Caring for the Older Person
The focus of the Day for Life this year is older persons. The COVID pandemic highlighted the desperate plight of many older people, especially those in care homes and those struggling with long-term chronic conditions such as dementia. They carried the highest burden which included prolonged isolation, the distress for families being unable to visit, delayed medical interventions and tragic, isolated, deaths followed by shortened, minimal, funeral rites. Many family members and friends continue to bear the wound of deep grief which hurts and is still in need of healing.
There are many challenges which we face; the way in which we provide care for older persons, its cost and the means of payment, the shortage of staff in care homes, the time and energy needed to help older people feel valued and wanted. Many feel they have become a burden or can feel treated as a burden, a ‘bed-blocker’, or a nuisance because they move more slowly, struggle with more physical challenges and live a different rhythm of life. They often feel vulnerable and worry, when they hear talk about and even concrete proposals for the legalisation of assisted suicide and euthanasia. We share their concerns. In better valuing older persons, we need to find new ways of building bridges by our actions.
Pope Francis has recently offered a very different and more positive perspective. In his Catechesis on Old Age, he writes, ‘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 throwaway culture and in the culture of productivity.’ He invites us to listen to the dreams of older women and men and to learn from their wisdom (Joel 2:28). Older persons have a different rhythm to life from which we can learn. He continues, ‘The arrogance of the time on the clock must be converted into the beauty of the rhythms of life.’
We invite people to think again about the value and worth of older persons in families and in society, and to make practical choices to build bridges between the generations. We call for people and parishes to devote quality time, energy and creativity in caring for the older persons in our communities.
We invite engagement in political debate on providing adequately resourced care of older persons so that no-one feels like a burden in our society.
We challenge our politicians and healthcare system to provide accessible palliative care for all the dying.
We encourage people to learn from a closer accompaniment of the elderly that there is a real richness in the journey through old age, which offers a deeper meaning and a new rhythm to the whole of life; something which can be celebrated and lived with hope in eternal life.
Saint Joachim and Saint Anne, pray for us.
 Pope Francis, General Audience, 2 March 2022
Resources are available on www.councilforlife.ie