The second theme for this special day is from the Psalms: "In old age they will still bear fruit" (Psalm 92:15). The theme is an invitation to reflect on the blessing and gift that inevitable old age presents to us.
The global population is aging, and older people are a growing demographic group in society in many countries. By 2050, a report projects that 1 in 6 people in the world will be older than 65 (United Nations, 2019). As Catholics, we believe that every human person is precious, and that all life is sacred and must be protected. During a pandemic that has disproportionately impacted the elderly, many senior citizens have been lonely and isolated. Across the world, so many seniors were sick from or lost to the virus. The events of the past years and the World Day Grandparents and the Elderly is a reminder for all families to honor and celebrate grandparents and the elderly, personally and as a society. This day encourages Catholics to prioritize care for the elderly with reverence for the gifts this generation offers and the "enduring fruitfulness" they can share with all of us and the Church.
It is no coincidence that the date of the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly falls near the feast day of Saints Anne and Joachim, celebrated on July 26. Anne and Joachim are honored as the parents of Mary, Mother of God, and Jesus’ grandparents. When angels told them that God would bless them with a child who would be known throughout the world, Anne and Joachim placed their trust and faith in God. As Jesus’ grandparents, they are the patron saints of grandparents.
Invite children and families to complete a special craft about the ways parents and grandparents pass on their faith to their children and grandchildren. This printable activity sheet inspired by Saints Anne and Joachim include strips of paper for kids to make a “chain of faith” during celebrations for the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly and the feast day of Saints Anne and Joachim.
Here is some inspiration that Catholic kids and families can use as they prepare to celebrate the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly and to build connections across generations with grandparents and the elderly.
Befriend an Elder
As restrictions about visiting the elderly are lifted around the world, families have an opportunity to spend quality time with loved ones and with new friends. Reach out to elderly neighbors or parish members in friendship and make regular efforts to get to know them. They might benefit from a helping hand, but an intergenerational friendship will benefit everyone involved.
Share Stories and Rituals
The telling of stories plays a big role in the passing on of faith in the home. Encourage families to engage in rituals of faith by sharing stories together with some guidance from The Role of Storytelling and Ritual in Passing on Faith in the Family Faith Fact which provides support in reflecting on and discussing family stories that pass on the faith.
Spread Cheer and Gratitude
Provide art materials and blank cards for children to write or draw something to share with the elderly. Invite children to craft their own messages and designs or provide guidance in writing a message of thanks and care. Give finished cards to a grandparents, older relatives, or elderly neighbors. Or mail or drop cards to a local senior center or assisted living facility where the staff can distribute them to elderly people.
Seek and Share Wisdom
Invite Catholic kids to interview a grandparent or an elderly person in the parish community about his or her faith. There is so much to be learned from the rich life experience and the mature faith of the elderly. Use the printable template in the Grand Gift of Wisdom Activity. Invite kids to share their interviews with others in their families or communities through a display, a booklet, celebration or a presentation.
Pray for and with grandparents and the elderly during the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly. Thank God for the gift of grandparents and ask his blessing on these special family members and friends with the Prayer for Grandparents Prayer Card.
Nurture intergenerational care, respect, and evangelization on the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly. As you share these resources in your parish, school, or home, answer Pope Francis' appeal to reach out to the elderly who may be alone and to build transformational friendships that will bear fruit across generations.