Elderly should be valued, protected, Vatican tells UN

.- Government, society and families should value the elderly, create opportunities for them to contribute to society and establish programs that will provide them with proper health care and social services, said the Vatican’s permanent observer to the United Nations.

Archbishop Celestino Migliore told a UN committee yesterday that society should create “a wide range of opportunities to make use of the potential, experiences and expertise of older persons.” The Oct. 4 meeting was a follow-up to the International Year of Older Persons:

Second World Assembly on Ageing, held in Madrid in 2002.

“This approach and attitude will enable [the elderly] both to remain connected to society and to continue to make a mark in the world, whether for volunteerism or work,” he said.

Most importantly, however, families must appreciate their elderly. The archbishop said the Holy See reaffirms the important role of the family in the security and health of the elderly, including their mental, physical and spiritual health.

The archbishop noted that projected demographics indicate that the number of elderly worldwide will increase dramatically up until 2050. According to statistics, there are currently more than 600,000,000 people who are over 60 years of age, and it is estimated that by 2050 they will be more than three times that number. By 2030, 71 percent of the elderly will live in developing countries.

The archbishop affirmed that social protection of the elderly is a main responsibility of governments and private institutions.

Governments must provide the elderly with access to primary health care and social services, with a focus on their specific medical needs and adequate nutrition. “These processes might include a safety net where pensions and other schemes are inadequate,” he said.

“Social services are an extension of the common duty to provide for older family members who are neglected, in order to reduce the impact of globalization-driven migration and family fragmentation,” he added.

The archbishop noted the important contributions of the elderly in society, namely their role in caring for dependent and sick individuals, particularly by older women.

“My delegation notes here how important are compassion, love, respect, appreciation and fondness for the elderly,” he said.

The archbishop also encouraged governments to teach in schools these values and the media to promote these values.

Every country must become and remain “a society for all ages” and extra caution must be given to fiscal and international policies for the aged.

At present, Catholic agencies and organizations on every continent care for the aged in over 13,000 facilities, including more than 500 centers in Africa, 3,000 in the Americas and 1,400 in Asia.

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