Last November Pope Benedict visited a home for the elderly that the Community of Sant'Egidio sponsors. His words to the residents were full of affection and shared experience:
Dear friends, at our age we often experience the need of the help of others; and this also happens to the Pope. In the Gospel we read that Jesus told the Apostle Peter: when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go (Jn 21:18). The Lord was referring to the way in which the Apostle was to witness to his faith to the point of martyrdom, but this sentence makes us think about that fact that the need for help is a condition of the elderly. I would like to ask you to see in this too a gift of the Lord, because being sustained and accompanied, feeling the affection of others is a grace! This is important in every stage of life: no one can live alone and without help; the human being is relational. And in this case I see, with pleasure, that all those who help and all those who are helped form one family, whose lifeblood is love.
91-year-old Enrichetta Vitali, told the pope, "I don't eat so much anymore, but prayer is my nourishment." She asked the pope to "pray that I don't lose my memory so I can keep remembering people in my prayers."