From early on in its history, care for and friendship with the elderly has been a defining aspect of the life of the Sant’Egidio Community. This inter-generational alliance began in 1972, when the first members of Sant’Egidio began encountering older people in poor neighborhoods in Rome, such as Primavalle, Garbatella, and Trastevere. The founding members of the Community were young—university and high school students. They had no knowledge of the dramatic demographic transformations taking place in European and North American societies that would revolutionize old age. The young people of Sant’Egidio did notice the hardship of loneliness and solitude, and wanted to respond to the simple desire of older people for companionship and support.
Our friendship with the elderly has remained constant over the years as the Community of Sant’Egidio spread all over the world. From the global North to the global South, every Sant’Egidio Community lives out a special love and regard for the elderly. We want to share their lives, their stories, their faith, and their difficulties. This inter-generational friendship has led to a dynamic alliance: elders receive help and companionship from those who are younger, but they also give to others through their affection, friendship, and prayers. Our closeness to older people has reawakened a desire for life in all of us, encouraging us to a deeper solidarity with people. That is why we call the alliance with the elderly “a school of humanity.”
Friendship with the elderly over all these years has given Sant’Egidio a wealth of experience and insight which we want to share with others in an effort to build a culture of solidarity and hospitality toward older people. Each week, in cities around the United States, members of our community visit older people in their homes and in nursing homes.
We invite you to join us in this effort to build bridges between generations!