Statistics show that we are not keeping up with the problems of the aged in Korea. There are now more suicides and abuse of the elderly, and fewer programs for senior citizens, both in society and in the Church. Although all parishes have a subcommittee on the pastoral council for the young, few have one for the elders.
Today in our society, 11 percent of the population is over 65; by 2050, it is estimated the figure will be 38.5 percent. In the past, the elderly were considered receivers of aid: taken on trips and given parties several times a year, but this was the extent of the concern. It is said that to determine how well a country is doing in caring for its elderly is to look at the money being spent on education for the young, which usually is a sign of what is being done for the aged. According to this standard, we are not doing well by our elderly. The Catholic Times editorial points out that if the government, the churches, and private organizations do not begin to do something, we will have a serious problem in the future.
For things to change, the editorial says it will require new parish priorities. And this change will come about, it suggests, when the thinking of the clergy concerning the elderly begins to change. If the aged are seen only as objects of concern, the efforts to help will be limited. The elderly should be seen not only as deserving recipients of aid, the editorial goes on to say, but as valued participants in the pastoral work of the parish.
There are many older people who have a great deal of experience and specialized know-how in many different fields. They are often in good health and are willing to help if asked. They should be given every opportunity to volunteer their services, in parishes and in society. Specialists in this field have stated that there are all kinds of opportunities in society to generate jobs that will fit the talents of our senior citizens. In this way, not only society and the Church will benefit, but the elderly will be helped as well. It is urgent that we begin to implement the necessary programs to accomplish these goals as soon as possible in the many parishes throughout the country. Utilizing the talents of our elderly population will serve the needs of both Church and society.