UP Catholic 02 19 2016 E Edition Page 16

D uring a recent family reunion my elderly mother and I were the only ones at the table without smart phones. We felt left out. A few days later I read that Pope Francis advised parents to ban mobile devices from the dinner table to help restore the quality of family relationships. These two occurrenc- es reminded me of the life of our foundress, Saint Jeanne Jugan. In her time the poor were essentially swept aside in the wake of the French Revolution and rapid industrialization. Today we are experiencing a different type of revolution as digital technologies evolve nearly every day. New modes of social communication, it is claimed, foster unimagined levels of human connectedness. But just as the poor and elderly were marginalized in Saint Jeanne Jugans day, they are often left behind in the communications revo- lution of today when they lack the means or the know-how to keep up with the latest technology. Consider these statis- tics from the Pew Internet and American Life Project: While 95 percent of millennials own cell phones, less than half of those over 75 own one. Only 18 percent of seniors own a smart phone. Only 10 percent of those belonging to the G.I. Generation own a laptop, com- pared with 70 percent of Millennials and 65 percent of Baby Boomers. Only 27 percent of older adults engage in online social networking. Younger, higher-income and more highly educated seniors use the internet more than those who are older or of more modest means. For both groups, usage drops off dramatically after age 75. Regardless of age, users of social net- working say they interact more with oth- er digitally connected people than with those who do not use digital communica- tion. These new forms of technology, with their rapid changes, have created a new feneration gap. Recently I was shocked to read that more than one million older people in the United Kingdom go a month without talking to another human being. This igure would surely be comparable in our own country. Such loneliness is dead- ly! Studies show that inadequate social interaction is linked to premature death. The increased mortality risk associated with loneliness is comparable to smoking, and twice as great as the risk associated with obesity! I hope you find this data as startling as I do. Through Pope Francis repeated calls for a culture of encounter I believe God is asking us to do something to relieve the social isolation of the elderly and poor. During this Jubilee Year of Mercy he is inviting us to practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy; among these are visiting the sick and imprisoned and comforting the afflicted. So what can we do? If you know an old- er person, who has the means but not the know-how to access digital media, then practice mercy by teaching them how to use the technology they already own. For those unable to afford computers and smart phones, as well as those whose physical or cognitive limitations pre- vent them from being able to use them, visit them with your laptop on a regular basis and facilitate their connection to long-distance loved ones via Skype or a similar platform. Finally, enrich the lives of the elderly through real, in-person face time. What better way could there be to celebrate the Jubilee of Mercy than to commit to spending time with our elderly loved ones or homebound neighbors and sharing a meal or a memory with them? Pope Francis inspires us to practice this form of mercy: Sharing and know- ing how to share is a precious virtue! he said. Its symbol, its icon, is the family fathered around the dinner table. The sharing of meals and in addition to food also of affection, of stories, of events is a common experience. The pope added, A family that hardly ever eats together, or that does not talk at the table but watches television, or looks at a smartphone is a barely familial family It is like a boarding house! Lets apply the popes think- ing to our relationships with elders. Lets do all we can to make sure that family togeth- erness and intergenerational bonds grow stronger during this Jubilee Year of Mercy! Sister Constance Veit is the communications director for the Little Sisters of the Poor in the United States. 16 February 19, 2016 THE U.P. CATHOLIC COMMENTARY www.upcatholic.org Jesus, I Trust In You To advertise your Divine Mercy Sunday schedule in The U.P. Catholic Newspaper, call 1-866-452-5112 or Email upc@new.rr.com COOPER OFFICE EQUIPMENT Full Copier Line From Tabletop To Networkable Digital Laser Systems (906) 228-6929 Phone 800-432-7682 Fax 800-908-8542 Purchase & Lease Options Authorized KONICA Printers-Copiers Dealer Keeping elders connected, a work of mercy y GUEST COLUMN Sister Constance Veit New chalice and paten presented by Knights of Columbus COURTESY PHOTO From left to right, Knights of Columbus color guards Bob Magnuson, Grand Knight, Ron Deloria, and Ted Hentschell present a chalice and paten to Father Ben Paris at St. Francis de Sales parish in Manistique during the Christmas Eve Mass. Father Paris was in need of a chalice and paten for Masses at the medical care facility, in which he presides over once a week. An old chalice and paten were found while cleaning the church, and brought to Richardsons jewelers in Escanaba for refurbishing prior to being presented.

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