The International Day for the Elderly, instituted by the UNO in 1990, is being celebrated worldwide on October 1st.. The object of this day is to raise public awareness on the issue of growing old and the immense solitude of our elders. It is also a day where we can acknowledge and appreciate the contributions that the elderly bring to society.
This year’s chosen theme, « Durability and Openness to people of all ages in the urban environment », focuses on the conditions of the elderly across the continents: « Opening our towns to the elderly signifies setting up options for economic and social participation in safe and accessible environments. This includes providing affordable accommodation as well as the health and social services they need as they grow old in their environment.”
In France, the bill « Adaptation of society to growing old » is currently nearing the end of discussion in Parliament, with the Second Reading due in the Senate on October 28th. The text aims in particular to strengthen the autonomy of the elderly so that they can remain in their living environment, and to acknowledge the role of the 4.3 million family care assistants who help them on a daily basis. While presenting this bill in September 2014, the Secretary of State for the Elderly, Laurence Rossignol, reiterated this conviction: « One doesn’t become old from one day to the next. (…) When we are looking after the elderly, we are looking after the most vulnerable. »
Last June, Alliance VITA launched the campaign « Messages for Life ». Faced with isolation and an increasing exclusion of elderly people, this campaign arranged for several hundred members of the association to meet their elders and listen to their messages on life.
The testimonies of the members of Alliance VITA who participated in this action reveal the richness and depth of these encounters:
« This helped us to realise that many of the elderly are young at heart, and have a positive outlook, contrary to the stereotypical prejudices that are commonplace such as being pessimistic and bitter. »
« A great richness of the experiences shared by the very old, having lived an amazing life. »
« One gains insight, for some very old people, on the impact that different wars (Algeria, 39-45) have left on their lives. These experiences help us to put things into perspective, and give us a great lesson in humility faced with our small worries. »
« Beautiful meetings, and a reminder of the loneliness and solitude of the elderly. »
« Firstly, the aspect of time: at 90 years old you’re much calmer and peaceful than at 25, as if you’re actually living, instead of always running after Life.… »
« This motivates me to go and visit the elderly on a regular basis! »