AT THE end of this month Father Giuseppe Ungaro, the oldest friar of our community here at the Basilica of St Anthony in Padua, will reach his hundreth birthday. This is a truly significant goal for an extraordinary friar who has done so much good in his eventful life, during which he has met so many amazing people, including six saints (see article on p. 40).

However, time is passing for me as well, dear reader: my hair has turned white and, for a number of years now, I have belonged to the category of the over 60s in my religious province, and therefore – yes – I am a senior citizen!

I am getting so old that all my friends in heaven will think that I didn’t make it! This sentence, which I found on the Internet, is one of the many aphorisms on that stage of life that is feared by so many people, and it is so often a cause of sadness, nervousness and pessimism.

Unfortunately, our society convinces the elderly that they have reached the end of their natural lives, and that they are no longer of any use to their families and communities. Nothing could be further from the truth, at least in God’s eyes. We need but recall that, according to the Bible, when God called Moses to deliver Israel out of the land of Egypt, he was over 80 years old. And in Psalm 92 we read, “In old age, (the righteous) still bear fruit; they are always green and full of sap, showing that the Lord is upright.” Old age can therefore be a time of great blessings and opportunities which we would be wise to seize. As you probably know, God supplies us with the opportunity, but it’s up to us to do something about it.

This is precisely what Alfonso and Dario, two friends of mine, did. For several years now they have formed an original musical band which gives weekly performances for the elderly. What is special about them is not so much the instruments they play: the first the violin and the second the piano, and not even their musical repertoire: oldies from the Fifties and Sixties. What really makes them so special is their desire to live out their old age and their passion for music as an opportunity to do good to other human beings by trying to make them happy even if only for the short time during their performances.

Alfonso is 84 while Dario is ‘only’ 80, and they have both decided to dedicate their time and energies to the aged guests of various Homes for the elderly around Padua by setting up small concerts for them, concerts which often become real parties.

“When I retired from my office job,” Alfonso told me, “I ended up with loads of free time and, living close to a Home for the elderly, the idea came naturally to place my love for music and the ability to play the violin at their disposal. I then met Dario, who plays the piano, and so we formed our duo-band with the goal of entertaining the elderly or even children, if we are asked. It is nice to know that we are still useful and capable of bringing joy to people.”

We should consider old age as just another cycle of our lives, perhaps one of the most complicated, but certainly not worse than the others. We should not forget that thanks to the years behind them, the elderly have acquired various tools of wisdom, and that they are therefore capable of considering life with a certain equanimity. Of course, to age well it is necessary to accept the limitations that it brings: it is not possible to run around as though one were a 20 year old; one must not drink or eat too much, and must try to sleep well, but this need not impair one’s capacity to become a precious teacher of life, faith and wisdom.

In the Bible we read of an old couple, Abraham and Sarah, and of two very old people, Simeon and Anna, who were marvelously used by God in spite of their age. It is amazing to see how God can also use very old people to do wonderful things. Old people can be very precious if they are moved by God, because He is love and, as we know, true love moves everything.

Updated on May 01 2019