by Father Mark Goldasich
Not to brag or anything, but I’ve been pretty popular lately.
Every day, I get multiple phone calls from people who want to talk only to me. And that’s not all: My volume of snail mail has exploded.
In the interest of full disclosure, all the extra calls and mail are because I’m eligible for Medicare next month and everyone wants to entice me into choosing the plan that’s best: theirs. But hey, popular is popular, right?
Honestly, I don’t feel “Medicare eligible” except in one area: Lately, if I don’t write something down, I’m likely to forget it.
And forget this I did. I’d intended to write about the 30th anniversary of the International Day of Older Persons, designated by the United Nations to be celebrated annually on Oct. 1. I wanted to highlight not only the wonderful gifts and advice that older people have to share, but also to note that, this year, the number of people worldwide aged 60 years and older will outnumber children younger than 5. Incredible!
As proof that age is just a number, though, recall that on Oct. 28, 1958, Cardinal Angelo Roncalli of Venice was elected Pope John XXIII at what was then the ripe old age of 75. Many considered him a “caretaker pope,” but in his nearly five-year pontificate, one of his greatest accomplishments was to convene the Second Vatican Council. His intention was to “throw open the windows of the Church so that we can see out and the people can see in.”
Other folks, as well, came into their own later in life:
• George Burns won his only Oscar at 80.
• Golda Meir became prime minister of Israel at 71.
• Grandma Moses didn’t start painting until she was 80. She completed over 1500 paintings, 25% of them after she was 100 years old.
• Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel when he was 71. (Information was found in “More Sower’s Seeds,” by Brian Cavanaugh, TOR.)
I was blessed growing up because I got to spend many hours with my grandparents and their friends. They taught me so much about life. Although they’ve all passed away, there are still plenty of elders around to guide us.
One enterprising activities director at a nursing center in St. Clair, Missouri, asked residents there to write down advice on a white board. Here are some of their answers:
• “Find someone to love and keep on loving them.” (Bob, 91)
• “Get a good education. Be kind to your parents.” (Rose, 81)
• “Keep an open mind. You never know what the future has waiting for you.” (Bob N, 80)
• “Slow down. You don’t always need to be in such a hurry.” (Edna, 81)
• “Don’t let the little things in life get in the way of your success. Use good common sense.” (Rosemary, 85)
• Finally, there’s Waunita who wrote: “Eat, drink and be merry!” (Hey, she’s made it to age 92, so she must be doing something right.)
Honestly, I’m glad this column was late for International Day of Older Persons, since they should be celebrated every day. It’s like someone said: “Listen to your elders’ advice — not because they are always right, but because they have more experiences of being wrong.”
Especially in this COVID time of isolation, let’s make an effort to creatively reach out to the older people in our parish and community, particularly through that old, but effective, standby: snail mail.
Let older persons know they’re truly treasured and popular . . . and not only when it’s Medicare plan enrollment time.