We celebrate Social Justice Sunday on 25 September. This year, the Australian Bishops' Social Justice Statement is titled: 'A Place at the Table: Social justice in an ageing society'.
The Statement celebrates the value and dignity of older people in Australian life. It challenges us to recognise their significant contribution to society and emphasises that this contribution should not be valued in mere economic terms. The Statement calls for justice for those who are most vulnerable and warns about a view of older people as burdensome or dispensable.
The number of Australians aged 65 and over will more than double by the middle of the century. This has been rightly described as 'the great success story of human development'. Increasing numbers of older people have an excellent chance of enjoying good health and an active life for many years.
In a society in which older people are being asked to work beyond the traditional retirement age, the bishops call for the benefits of work to be shared equitably. We must be especially aware of the needs of those who enter retirement in poverty or are particularly vulnerable to economic hardship, social isolation or exploitation.
The Bishops consider the circumstances of those who are approaching the end of their lives and warn of the loneliness, ageism and abuse that older people can experience. In particular, the Bishops warn about implications of the current community debate on euthanasia.
The Bishops call for communities of mercy and love – where people reach out and minister to vulnerable older people, where bonds between generations are built up, and where no one is cast as being a burden or as rivals to younger generations.
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A Prayer for all Ages
God of all creation, you are timeless and beyond all ages.
We who are growing old give thanks
for the years you have given us –
for family, friends and all those
who have enriched our lives.
We who are not yet old give thanks
for the older people in our lives:
for grandparents, loved ones, friends
and all who generously offer
the wise counsel of their years.
We who are growing old pray that we may be
patient with our ageing limbs
and difficulties in everyday tasks
we once did much more easily.
We who are not yet old pray
for patience and kindness
towards those who do not move as quickly
as we would sometimes like.
We who are growing old pray for good health
in our later years,
and forbearance when our health fails us.
We who are not yet old pray for good health
for those we love
and compassion towards those
who suffer ill health.
We who are growing old pray for prudence and sweet timing,
in offering our wisdom to the next generation,
while respecting their energy and creativity.
We who are not yet old pray for openness
and humility in receiving
the advice and guidance of our elders.
We who are growing old pray that we
may face our death with serenity and dignity.
We who are not yet old pray that we affirm
the sacredness of each person's life
and accompany those who are dying
with gentleness and deep respect.
God of endless love, help us to understand
that we share a common life journey,
a call to live life to the full
and to strive to enable all creation to come
to the fullness of the Cosmic Christ. Amen