Vatican seeks elder care rethink after COVID-19 'massacre'

The Vatican is calling for a new paradigm of care for the elderly after what it calls the “massacre” wrought by the coronavirus pandemic

Vatican Elderly
Vatican Elderly

The Vatican is calling for a new paradigm of care for the elderly after what it calls the “massacre” wrought by the coronavirus pandemic which has disproportionately killed elderly people living in nursing homes

The Vatican’s Pontifical Council of Life issued a position paper Tuesday that made the case for a global rethink of how to care for people in their final years, including resisting any rush to institutional care in favor of adapting home environments to the needs of people as they age.

The council's president, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, noted at a press conference that more than half of Italy’s elderly dead during the initial coronavirus outbreak lived in nursing homes, while only a quarter of overall deaths involving people over 75 lived at home.

“The death tolls are brutal in their cruelty,” Paglia said. “A real massacre of the elderly.”

Pope Francis has frequently spoken about the wisdom and richness that the elderly provide younger generations and denounced how they are often shut away in institutions. That tendency, he says, is part of what he calls today's “throwaway culture” that treats the elderly, weak and infirm as nonessential.

The 84-year-old Francis, who credits his grandmother Rosa with helping raise him and passing onto him her Catholic faith, recently designated the fourth Sunday of July as the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly.

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