ROME – Following an appeal from Pope Francis over the weekend for young people to reach out to the elderly in their area who are isolated because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the Vatican has launched a social media campaign urging youth to take the pope’s words to heart.
“The pandemic has hit the elderly particularly hard and it has disconnected the already weak links between generations. However, respecting social distancing rules does not mean accepting a destiny of loneliness and abandonment,” read a July 27 statement from the Vatican office for Laity, Family and Life, which is overseeing the effort.
“It is possible to reduce the isolation felt by elderly people while also strictly observing health guidelines for COVID-19,” they said, echoing Pope Francis’s appeal following his Sunday Angelus address, which coincided with the liturgical feast of Saints Joachim and Anne, Jesus’s grandparents.
The pontiff called for young people “to perform a gesture of tenderness towards the elderly, especially the loneliest, in their homes and residences, those who have not seen their loved ones for many months.”
“Each one of these elderly people is your grandparent! Do not leave them by themselves,” the pope said, and encouraged youth to use “the inventiveness of love” to get in touch, either through telephone calls, video calls, written messages, or, where possible, personal visits.
“Send them a hug,” he said, insisting that “An uprooted tree cannot grow, it does not blossom or bear fruit. This is why the bond and connection with your roots is important.”
In keeping with the sentiment, the office for Laity, Family and Life has titled their campaign “The elderly are your grandparents,” echoing Francis’s appeal.
Urging youth to perform some sort of gesture “that shows kindness and affection for older people who may feel lonely,” the office noted that since the pandemic began, they have received stories of numerous initiatives to reach out to the elderly, including telephone or video calls, connection through social media, serenades outside of retirement homes.
During the first stage of the campaign, when social distancing requirements are still in full force in several countries throughout the world, the Vatican is encouraging young people to seek out elderly people in their own neighborhoods and parishes and to “send them a hug, according to the request of the Pope, by means of a phone call, a video call or by sending an image.”
“Wherever possible − or whenever the health emergency will allow it − we invite young people to make the embrace even more concrete by visiting elderly in person,” they said.
The campaign is being promoted on social media through the hashtag, “#sendyourhug,” with the promise that the most visible posts will be featured on the Twitter account for the Laity, Family and Life office.
Follow Elise Ann Allen on Twitter: @eliseannallen