Human dignity in old age

Taking care of the elderly is a universal responsibility and not a question of personal morals, the Swiss national churches state on the occasion of Human Rights Day on December 10.

Human dignity is inviolable. It does not fade with old age and the loss of independence. On the occasion of Human Rights Day on December 10, the Swiss national churches issue a joint appeal to embrace aging as “a constitutive part of human life,” not only a limitation or burden.

Taking care of the elderly in society is “not a question of subjective morals or volunteer work, but the responsibility of us all. The biblical commandment to honor one’s parents is a kind of intergenerational contract,” explain the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches, the Swiss Bishops’ Conference and the Christian Catholic Church of Switzerland.

In their appeal, the churches take a stand for old people “who no longer meet the expectations of today’s society.” Age-related dependence and infirmity can be such a frightening prospect “that in one of the world’s richest countries, a growing number of older people decide to depart this life with the help of assisted suicide.”

“Everyone wants to grow old, but no one wants to be old,” the statement continues. The biotechnological improvement of life stirs up hopes of eliminating the undesired aspects of aging. This perception, however, marginalizes old people who “can no longer live up to this idealized image of advanced age.”

If we stop seeing life as a gift, feeling like health is exclusively a personal achievement, we are “blind to the dependence of human existence,” the churches emphasize. “We all need to become aware of our own mortality and death.” Today more than ever, growing old is a matter of living consciously: “The art of living includes the art of growing old and dying.”