Dear grandparents and all elderly,
In his message for the First World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, Pope Francis drew attention to the three pillars that carry the bridge of coexistence between the elderly and the young: dreams, memories and prayer. These three pillars also hold a solid sense of age. They are the common spiritual basis for the quality ageing of believers and non-believers.
Dreams of a bright future and happiness are a characteristic of young people. If life runs as much as possible on the right track, even middle-aged people dream of healthy growing up of children, work achievements, and success in their life tasks. What about the elderly? They dream with their grandchildren, their youthful dreams and with their adult children, theirs. The condition for this coexistence is their life dreams – that have matured into a firm trust in the meaning of life.
Memory is the light in which life experiences mature into trust. When a person becomes a grandmother or grandfather, they have decades of good and bad life experiences behind them – they are rooted in them like a tree in the ground. In their personal experiences, family experiences and the experiences of their local, national, religious and other communities. The elderly and the young grow from our own experiences and the experiences of others, from present and past experiences and the very beginning of humanity. The contribution of the elderly to the development of humanity is a grateful reminder of the experiences built into development to date. Memory is the maintenance of the road so that younger generations can build it forward into the invisible future.
Prayer is a person's inner dialogue in which dreams mature into the confidence that they can come true. Prayer is a dialogue with the good and bad experiences that memory possesses. In our spiritual core, we grind good experiences with a happy and grateful memory into the golden grains of our lives, our families, and our communities. In doing so, we calmly put aside bad experiences; namely, they are manure that poisons us and others, if we mix it, but when we leave it, it rots into fertile compost for our personal development and development family and local, national and Christian community. Prayer - a personal dialogue about everything vital - takes place in one's own heart before God or before the incomprehensible mystery of development. In it, the inner peace of age-old wisdom is born when dreams mature into trust and experiences drive development. It keeps the elderly cheerful, proud and grateful, and inspires dreams in younger generations and strengthens them at work.
On the bridge carried by dreams, memory, and prayer, grandparents and other ageing people carry out the life mission of the last third of their life. Research shows that the important meaning of age is that when they mature, they pass on to their offspring fundamental social values and good habits: diligence, honesty, and ability to empathize with others, manners etc. By what they are and how they live, they strengthen the resilience of the adult and the younger generation: life is meaningful, it is worth striving for the good and the beautiful, despite all the loss of power, and I believe and trust in the truth and life. Proof that the mature elderly decide the transmission of values from generation to generation is Russian grandmothers. Through three generations, they were raised in atheism and lived it, and in old age, they passed on to their grandchildren the Orthodoxy they experienced in their childhood with their grandmothers.
Today, the frantic race for the elderly to compete with younger people in being active pushes us into this severe emptiness the more we wane. Yet, with the material security, knowledge and long life we enjoy, like no other generation of the elderly before us, we also have a better chance of a relaxed, serene and deepened age than the generations before us. We can leave the spiritual heritage of this wisdom to our adult children and grandchildren - it will warm them even in their old age.
Dreams can mature into trust in old age. In prayer dialogue, good and bad experiences from personal and historical memory can mature. An ageing person can pray with the poet Gradnik for the last wisdom of life: "When I fall away, let me fall away mature!" Faith, hope and love mature for in the ageing Christian - as they experience God's kindness more and more, they become kinder and kinder to themselves and the people around them.
Dr Jože Ramovš, Anton Trstenjak Institute of Gerontology and Intergenerational Relations
Ana Ramovš, Dr med, head of the Coordination of Categorical Pastoral Care