Long Live the Elderly!


Office/person in charge:
Viva gli Anziani - Community of Sant’Egidio

Via di S. Gallicano, 25 00153 Rome - Italy

Email address:

Website/social media:

Long Live the Elderly! is a program by the Community of Sant’Egidio and the Ministry of Health for the physcial, spiritual, emotional, and social care of elderly populations all over the globe. Started in 1972 in Rome, our relationship with the senior population has brought us to a deep and fraternal understanding of the elderly and their daily lives. Our program helps fight social isolation among senior residents by organizing events for seniors to participate in, and especially by offering spaces for encounter between elderly people and young people. Our program also monitors common health crises and concerns (like heat waves, common flus/viruses, personal loss) and helps those at risk in the elderly population to get adequate care in these instances.


Our programs, now in many communities across the globe, helps to build a culture that is in solidarity with and welcoming to the elderly.  The elderly who partake receive physical assistance from their caregivers, and also give and receive much love, friendship, and life. Ours is a program of humanity.

What is it?

What is this initiative about?

The initiative was born from a long history of closeness with the elderly and from the conviction that friendship between a younger generation and an older generation is possible, even though we have different tastes, cultures and way of expressing ourselves. Both can offer each other the most precious possession: friendship. As friends, we can help, listen to and support each other.

Helping the elderly at home: fighting social isolation

This is one of the main goals of Long Live the Elderly. It is becoming more common for senior family members to be institutionalized. In response to this, Long Live the Elderly works to support the families of the elderly people and create assistance network for them so that there is closeness, connection, and happiness for all family members.

Visiting the elderly in nursing homes: humanizing life in an assisted-care institution

Living in a nursing home often brings feelings of isolation and dereliction. The Community of Sant’Egidio works to counteract this social isolation. The Community has staff at many nursing homes in Italy, across Europe, and on other continents. In these nursing homes, members of the Community keep the elderly company, attend to their needs, and offer them pastoral care. This friendship and closeness helps the elderly maintain their social life, keep their relationships outside of their nursing home, and preserve the integrity of their own personalities.

Opportunities for Shared Housing by the Community of Sant’Egidio

There are those in the already population that are not able to live independently in their own homes, whether that be because they are no longer self-sufficient, or because they lack the financial means, or because of some other circumstance.

The Community of Sant’Egidio has developed several projects for co-housing for these elderly people. These co-housing  options include: shared apartment, shared family houses, and sheltered housing.

All this is made possible through donations and funding from neighbors, relatives, and local community members. Caring for the elderly is a way of treasuring local lay communities.

Active health monitoring for those over 80 years old 

Long Live the Elderly started in Rome in 2004 as a response to the heartbreaking increase of elderly deaths because of a series of heatwaves. It is now quite clear that such a high mortality rate, far higher than normal, was due not only to the physical health concerns and vulnerabilities of the elderly people, but also was due to the high social isolation of elderly people.

In response, a great number of people (neighbors, shopkeepers, caretakers, doctors, pharmacists, voluntary workers, and other community members) starting to create networks to (informally) assist the elderly. In the years since, many elderly people have themselves become great activists of our program.

How does it help?

In what way does this initiative enhance the formation of the laity?

The presence of the elderly in our societies helps us understand that none of us are truly “self-sufficient,” and that we all need companionship and must depend on each other. The elderly teach us that suffering is not fragility. They are witnesses of the beauty of gratuitousness and show that “there is more joy in giving than in receiving”. For this reason, everyone should have a relationship with those in the elderly populations, even, and especially, those who in the younger populations.

Long Live the Elderly involves hundreds of adolescents and young people by providing opportunities for them to visit the elderly who live in institutions or who are alone in their own homes.

The elderly are teachers of life and they can connect with all people – young and old alike.  A more welcoming, understanding, and faithful society is born from this this encounter between generations.

Why is it important?

Why is this initiative important for the training and advancement of the laity in your country?

The “change of epoch” that Pope Francis often speaks about fully affects the lives of the elderly. There is a new generation of elderly people who are slowly acquiring space on the public scene, who demand recognition and want to continue to be active contributors in their society.

There is a need for a pastoral turning point that the attention and care of Christian communities turns towards the elderly.

Long Live the Elderly facilitates the encounter between different generations. We encourage young people to take care of those who need support and help and through this we teach them how to build a society of renewal, care, and hope. At the same time, Long Live the Elderly responds to the requests of the elderly who themselves want to be at the service of others. There are thousands who support the Long Live the Elderly mission and draw from it a reason to invest “more life” for others and be witnesses of the Gospel.

How did it start

How was this initiative developed?

The friendship between the Community of Sant’Egidio and the elderly goes back to 1972. This friendship has stayed strong all these years thanks to the faithful care for those people and the attention given to them and their needs.

Friendship was the way to shorten the distance between the elderly and the rest of the population. We met our first elderly friends in the suburbs of Rome. They told us the story of their generation of people who struggled to make ends meet, who had to move from their homes in order to get a decent job, who lived in shanty town while they had waited decades to get a proper house.

Over time we realized that many elderly in many parts of the world had shared the same or similar experiences in the 20th century. Although their bodies were sick and carried the scars of deprivation and hard work, they all wanted to live. Along with that desire to live a recurring question emerged: for what or for whom do I live for? Every man or woman, who feels he/she is getting old and outdated, marginalized and disregarded even by their close acquaintances, may ask him/herself or the people around the same question. After many years during which we have lived the solidarity with the elderly we can answer such questions: whom do I live for? Who cares about me? Life is always worth living when you have someone close to you. When old people are helped in the difficult moments of their lives, they rediscovered the reason to live.

It was a long story of friendship and companionship: it has changed our ideas but also the social environment of many elderly people.

At the beginning of our history we did not know that a dramatic social transformation was about to occur, what is known as a “demographic revolution.” At that time, we were just becoming aware of the fact that the most serious “disease” affecting the elderly is loneliness. They needed friendship and support. That is why we began our mission of taking care of them. Together with them and many others we began live our mission as a Christian community. Thanks to them the “alliance” of the Community with the elderly has grown to what is today.


Does it benefit the laity on a national or local level?

By involving many people who care for the elderly, the Long Live the Elderly program builds a network of proximity that makes life in disconnected neighborhoods and cities better and more human.

Around the home of a lonely old person, around the house where older people live, a network of people is created. This becomes a network of people who live their lives committed to caring for others. It creates a culture of respect and a society of care.

Visits to institutions and nursing homes for the elderly also make the institutions themselves more human and in a certain sense break down the walls that divide the institutions from the neighborhoods where they are located. In this way a positive exchange is generated between the institute and the neighborhood which also involves parishes already engaged in pastoral care for the elderly in the institutes.

Means and funding

Who funds the initiative? What is needed to launch this initiative?

Long Live the Elderly is a non-for-profit organization and our work is carried out largely by volunteers.

As for the active monitoring, co-housing, flat sharing, family homes, protected housing programs, we rely on the financial support of local partners (administrations, private donors and foundations).

To launch the initiative elsewhere, it is necessary to gather a trusted group of people, teach them how to best support the elderly, and involve them in programs and activities explained above – visiting the elderly.

Learn more

Where can people learn more about this initiative?

You may more about the “Long Live Elderly” program by visiting our website: www.vivaglianziani.it. Please also visit social media pages on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Countries involved

Does this initiative exist in other countries?

The Long Live the Elderly program started in in Rome, Italy, and has since  spread to many other Italian and European cities and now involves hundreds of thousands of elderly people and volunteers. Long Live the Elderly has been taken up in the Americas and, more recently, in countries in Africa.

How to start?

How can this initiative be implemented in other countries?

Consult the website, write an email, check if the program is already present in your city or country. If it is, coordinate with those in charge of it. If the program it is not yet implemented, Long Live the Elderly team will support you.