Pope Francis urged the elderly on Tuesday to consider their advanced age not a sentence but a blessing, when he himself can hardly walk due to a knee problem.

Francisco, 85, was included among the recipients of his message for the World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly, released on Tuesday. He himself instituted the day, celebrated at the end of July, to emphasize his belief that younger generations should consider the elderly a resource, not part of the “throwaway culture.”

Francis noted that old age is a time of life that is difficult to understand even “for us who are already living it.”

“Despite the fact that it comes after a long road, none of us have prepared us to face it, and it almost seems that it took us by surprise,” he wrote.

But he exhorted the elderly to celebrate their old age as the gift of a long life and not to mourn their diminished strength or sense of usefulness.

“When old age and gray hair arrive, He will continue to give us life and will not let us be defeated by evil,” he wrote. “Getting old is not a sentence, it is a blessing!”

Francisco has suffered a ligament strain in his right knee for months, and recently said that he cannot walk and must rest by doctor’s order.

He was seen in public last week using a wheelchair for the first time, raising questions about whether he will be able to make a trip to Congo and South Sudan in early July. Days ago, the Lebanese government reported that a visit planned for next month had been postponed for health reasons.

Francis pointed out in his message that war has returned to Europe, precisely when the generation that lived through the last war is dying. He asked that the elderly be “artificers of the revolution of tenderness, to free the world together from the shadow of loneliness and the demon of war.”

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