The Old Boys (and Girls) from Brazil

        Old Boys (and Girls) from Brazil

The proportion of Brazil’s elderly is increasing more rapidly
 than that of children. In 1980 there were 16 elderly
for every 100 children. In 2000, there were 30 elderly for
every 100 children. The Catholic Church in Brazil
is focusing its attention on them, this year.
by: Daniel
F. McLaughlin

The word "old"
for many people brings to mind a number of pejorative connotations. In
the Brazilian society, "old" has this pejorative meaning, signifying
the following: loss, nonproductive, weakness, uselessness and ancient.

The Brazilian Catholic
Bishops Conference in their annual Lenten Campaign prepared a manual on
the question of the elderly in today’s society. One of the recommendations
was to use the word idoso (elderly) instead of velho (old
person) as it has a kinder meaning, referring to a person who has lived
longer and has had more experience. The statements of the Brazilian Bishops
in their Lenten document were reinforced by recent research done by the
IBGE (Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística—Brazilian
Institute of Geography and Statistics).

Bishop Javier Lozano
Barragán speaking at the Second World Assembly of the United Nations
on Growing Old, in Madrid, on April 8, 2002 said that the elderly are
the guardians of the collective memory. They have a perspective of the
past and of the future, at the present moment. The elderly can help bring
together the different generations, placing at the disposal of all the
treasures of their time, abilities and experiences.

Dom Barragán
mentioned that in today’s cult of global productivity, the elderly unfortunately
run the risk of being considered useless. From a Christian point of view,
their presence in today’s world clearly demonstrate that the economic
value is not the only one nor the most important one.

In their document
on the elderly, the Brazilian Bishops Conference stated that the ageing
of the population is a world phenomenon, but in Brazil, it is happening
more rapidly.

For example, in France,
it took more that 150 years for the population over 65 years to reach
15 percent of the total population of the country. In Brazil, this proportion
was reached in only 25 years. IBGE research showed that in the next 20
years the elderly population of Brazil should pass 30 million. In 1991,
the population of those over 60 years was 10.7 million. In the year 2002,
it was 14.5 million. The proportion of the elderly is increasing more
rapidly than that of children. In 1980 there were 16 elderly for every
100 children. In 2000, there were 30 elderly for every 100 children.

In its report on the
longevity of life for the elderly, the IBGE reports that living in the
city could be very beneficial for the elderly, especially for widows,
because of the proximity of their children and specialized health services.
The report showed that the proportion of elderly living in rural areas
fell from 23.3 percent in 1991 to 18.6 percent in 2002. Another interesting
fact is that 62.4 percent of the elderly in Brazil are responsible for
Brazilian households, an increase of 2 percent since 1991.

Daniel McLaughlin
is a Catholic priest living among the poor in the periphery of the
city of São Paulo, Brazil. He can be reached at

This material
was supplied by Sejup, which has its own Internet site:



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