VATICAN CITY (CNS) — In a world that glorifies physical strength and appearances, grandparents must uphold the values that really matter and bring hope and wisdom to younger generations, Pope Francis said.

“We are called to work for the development of the culture of life, showing that every season of life is a gift of God and has its beauty and importance, even if it is marked by fragility,” the pope told thousands of grandmothers and grandfathers Oct. 15.

Groups and organizations, too, can do more to help older people participate, contribute and share their talents as well as to protect and uphold their dignity, he said.

“It’s necessary to oppose the harmful throwaway culture, which marginalizes the elderly, believing them to be unproductive,” he said. He reminded political, religious, educational and cultural leaders that they, too, are called to “dedicate themselves to building an ever more welcoming and inclusive society.”

The pope met with about 7,000 grandmothers and grandfathers in the Vatican’s Paul VI audience hall in a belated celebration of Grandparents’ Day, which in Italy was Oct. 2, the feast of the Guardian Angels.

The church looks upon older people “with affection, recognition and great esteem,” he said, as they are an “essential part of the Christian community and society.”

Older generations represent “the roots and memory of a people,” which make them “a precious treasure” that’s crucial for looking ahead to the future “with hope and responsibility,” he said.

“Your maturity and wisdom, accumulated over the years, can help the youngest, supporting them in their journey” as they grow, face events as they unfold and seek their own path.

Older people can offer an important witness that no matter how hard things get, “one must never lose faith in God and in a better future,” the pope said.

So many grandparents hand down essential spiritual and cultural values to their grandkids in very simple ways, he said. In fact, grandparents were the ones who cherished and passed down the faith “underground” to future generations in countries that experienced serious religious persecution, he said.

In a world where “strength and appearance are often idealized, you have the mission of witnessing to the values that truly count and that always remain,” he said.

“Talk your grandchildren, talk. Let them ask you questions” because even though they may have different interests and taste in music, “they need the elderly (and) this dialogue to continue to give them wisdom, too,” he said.

The pope also thanked those who serve the elderly and help them live with dignity, underlining how much earlier generations have contributed to society.

He reminded all institutions — such as nursing homes and assisted care facilities — that they are called to be “places of humanity and loving attention, where weaker persons do not end up being forgotten or neglected, but visited, remembered and taken care of like older brothers and sisters.”