ROME—Pope Benedict XVI has told a group of elderly Romans that it's "beautiful to be old" and that they still have much to offer society despite their limitations.

The 85-year-old pontiff said Monday he knows well the difficulties that come with age: He started using a cane occasionally earlier this year, and has slowed down. But his health remains robust and his schedule full. Monday, for example, took him out of the Vatican to a nearby residential home to mark Europe's year of solidarity with the elderly.

Benedict urged the residents to not look back sadly on their youth but to enjoy their age now. He said: "The quality of a society, I'd say of a civilization, is judged by how well it treats its elderly."