How can we ensure that seniors’ needs are met?

| Deacon Dan Gannon for The Catholic Spirit | January 16, 2014 | 0 Comments

By 2030, 1 in 4 Minnesotans will be age 65 or older, double the current number

During his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI called seniors a “blessing for society” and extolled the care of seniors, noting their care should be more a “repayment of a debt of gratitude” than a mere “act of generosity.”

As Catholics, we are called to affirm human life from conception until our birth into eternal life.

Pope Francis has denounced euthanasia and assisted suicide, calling it a “culture of discarding” the elderly.

“In Argentina there is clandestine euthanasia,” he said. “Social services pay up to a certain point; if you pass it, [they say] ‘die, you are very old’. Today, elderly people are discarded when, in reality, they are the seat of wisdom of the society.”

Pope Francis continued, strongly proclaiming the gospel of life in the tradition of Blessed John Paul II: “The right to life means allowing people to live and not killing, allowing them to grow, to eat, to be educated, to be healed, and to be permitted to die with dignity.”

By the numbers

Did you know:

  • By 2030, one in four Minnesotans will be age 65 or older, double the current number?
  • The number of individuals age 85 and over will triple?
  • This year, 10,000 baby boomers a day will turn 65, and the trend will continue for the next 20 years?
  • At least half of all Twin Cities senior households will not be able to afford the housing and/or services they require?

As Catholics, how are we ensuring that we provide for the needs of our elderly loved ones in body and soul? What trustworthy senior resources can we turn to for advice and direction?

Seniors make up the fastest growing demographic in our parishes and society, yet we so often overlook focusing on the needs of seniors in our midst.

Pope Francis recognized this as well when he noted on the first Sunday after Christmas: “Let us also think of those other exiles — I would call them ‘the hidden exiles’ who may be marginalized within their own families — the elderly, for example who sometimes are treated like burdens.”

‘Best-kept secret’

Did you know there are six Catholic senior care organizations in the archdiocese — 22 facilities serving more than 2,000 seniors across the continuum of care: independent living, assisted living, memory care, nursing home care, adult day, respite services, home care, palliative care and hospice?

In many ways they are the “best-kept secret” of our Catholic mission to our largest and fastest growing population. They provide Catholic pastoral care, including daily Mass, reconciliation, anointing of the sick, spiritual direction and spiritual growth programs.

All provide some level of affordable housing or assistance and health care for those without adequate resources to cover all of the costs. They adhere to Catholic teaching and uphold the dignity of the human person.

They are a part of the archdiocesan Catholic family, striving to serve seniors amid an impending age wave and increasing challenges to the quality and scope of services, while public funding and resources become increasingly strained. They collaborate in union with the archbishop via an organization called Catholic Senior Services.

Pope Benedict noted in his encyclical “Spe Salvi” that “the Christian message was not only ‘informative’ but ‘performative.’ That means: the Gospel is not merely a communication of things that can be known — it is one that makes things happen and is life-changing.” Let us find practical ways in our parishes to better address the spiritual and physical needs of seniors, who have given so much to us.

Toward that end, CSS is presently beginning a pilot program for parishes called “Catholic Senior Connection” across five regions in the archdiocese.

Catholic Senior Connection provides a regional care coordinator for parish staff and parishioners to utilize as a senior resource for referral and programming.

For more information, or if you need advice regarding Catholic senior care or services, visit http://www.catholicseniorservices.org. Or call the CSS Help Line at 1-877-420-6461.

Deacon Gannon is president and CEO of Catholic Senior Services in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

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Category: From Age to Age

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