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News “It's Beautiful to be Old” Professor tells Vatican

A Professor from Staffordshire University has been advising the Vatican on the future of elderly social care.

Professor Kevern at the international congress
Image: Professor Kevern at the international congress

If we want to value older people and work towards a more integrated society then we have to reimagine what old age means.

Dr Peter Kevern, Professor of Values in Health and Social Care

Dr Peter Kevern, Professor of Values in Health and Social Care, was asked to take part in the ‘International Congress for Pastoral Care of the Elderly’ held in Rome in January.

Organised by the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life – the Vatican department responsible for promoting the interests of older people – the event was attended by religious congregations and associations involved in care for the elderly from around the world.

Professor Kevern was invited to speak based on recent research funded by the Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN), an agency of the Catholic Bishops' Conference, which seeks to identify the main themes of an emerging Catholic Social Teaching on old age. It forms part of a wider concern with how religious organisations can address issues around elderly care and how older people are perceived by society.

“The global population is ageing rapidly and elderly social care is now an international issue which raises questions for policy, for funding of things like pensions, and social care.” Professor Kevern explained.

“We have inherited this idea of old age as a time of decline, frailty, loss and uselessness – that elderly people are seen as takers not givers. My main argument is that if we want to value older people and work towards a more integrated society then we have to reimagine what old age means.

“The Catholic Church could be a major ally in this project. It represents around 1.3 billion people and is the world’s largest provider of health and social care. So, changes and developments in the Catholic Church have potentially global implications for the status of older people.”

The conference saw presentations from Brazil, Chile, Korea, Sumatra, Japan, Rwanda, Zimbabwe and many other countries. All of them brought different experiences of what ageing means in the context of their society.

After the conference Professor Kevern was also invited the attend an audience with the Pope.

He added: “The amount that is being done on the ground by those involved in the Church is impressive and humbling. The Church's emergent social teaching on the role and needs of the elderly stands out for its richness and profound insight. It is a good time to let it be more widely known.”

Professor Kevern plans to continue his work with the CSAN and will deliver an annual public lecture for the Centre for Catholic Social Teaching in May.

Read the full report for the CSAN here – “It's Beautiful to be Old.” In Search of Emergent Catholic Social Teaching on Old Age

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