Pope Francis and Robert De Niro Agree on Aging

Pope Francis in Central Park. Photo: Getty Images.
Pope Francis in Central Park. Photo: Getty Images.

What do Pope Francis and actor Robert De Niro have in common?

When the Pope addressed the U.S. Congress last week, amid a 50-minute speech spanning the importance of caring for the poor, stewarding the planet, and mitigating violence, he made a brief mention about the importance of elders.

“I would also like to enter into dialogue with the many elderly persons who are a storehouse of wisdom forged by experience, and who seek in many ways, especially through volunteer work, to share their stories and their insights,” said the Pontiff. “I know that many of them are retired, but still active. They keep working to build up this land.”

Pope Francis has long lamented our treatment of older adults. Instead of abandoning and disposing of our elders, he encourages a new look at aging: “Like good wine, we get better with age,” he has said.

In a world teetering on the edge of global chaos, with tempers flaring at the touch of a computer keystroke, the Pope has illuminated the critical importance of older adults in restoring hope for the planet.

What qualities are desperately needed in today’s hair-trigger world? Wisdom. Patience. Compassion. Perspective. Fairness.

What qualities do older adults bring to social problems? The very same ones.

In fact, the work of the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers continues to spread this message.

The day after Pope Francis’ address, opening across the country the Hollywood film “The Intern” echoed the Pope’s message using this tag line: “Wisdom never gets old.”

The movie tells the tale of a 70 year-old retired widower (De Niro) who returns to the workforce as an intern for a high-fashion online clothing business based in Brooklyn and headed by Anne Hathaway.

While skeptical of bringing on an old-timer, Hathaway’s character is won over by De Niro’s… wisdom, insight, patience and compassion.

In a radio interview, director Nancy Meyers lamented the loss of the romantic-comedy to louder, big-budget superhero films.

In fact, where are today’s true heroes?

These two synchronistic events – the Pope’s speech and the opening of “The Intern” – may indicate that tomorrow’s older adult heroes are awaiting a chance to take charge once again with their inimitable insight, wisdom and patience to guide a world desperately in need of these singular attributes.

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