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Vatican UN observer speaks out against ageism

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has said that longevity and ageing are often regarded as a problem, but are in reality "a gift of God, to be enjoyed and utilised fruitfully".

Speaking recently in Berlin during the UN-sponsored European Ministerial Conference on Ageing, he described the elderly as "active protagonists in society", insisting that institutions in society must must support them.

Archbishop Martin is permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations Office and Specialized Institutions in Geneva.

"Changes in family patterns in many European countries have led to a greater isolation of older people," he argued, adding that individualist philosophy that has caused the drop in birth rates and has caused families "to take less into account the responsibility of families towards the future of society ... can reduce the capacity of the family to carry out its role in inter-generational society."

"The fact of widespread and growing longevity will demand not just structural changes in our societies but also in the choices of persons," said Archbishop Martin. He said that in order to ensure that "older people are facilitated in remaining autonomous and active for the longest possible periods, greater stress should be placed on educational structures ... which provide intellectual stimulus and address also the particular spiritual needs of older people."

Second World Assembly on Ageing, Madrid April 2002

Vatican Information Service

23 Sep 2002