The International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations (UN) launched the first World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) on June 15, 2006 in an effort to unite communities around the world in raising awareness about elder abuse. WEAAD serves as a call-to-action for our communities to raise awareness about abuse, neglect, and exploitation of elders, and reaffirm our country’s commitment to the principle of justice for all.
While there is no singular definition for elder abuse — some are based on age, vulnerability, or determined by state statutes or tribal codes — The Elder Justice Roadmap offers one definition, created by the field for the field. It states that elder abuse is “abuse, neglect, abandonment, or financial exploitation of an older individual by another person or entity who has a trust-based relationship with the older adult or any harm that occurs because an older person is targeted by a stranger based on their age or disability. Each year, an estimated 5 million older adults experience abuse, neglect, or exploitation. Older Americans lose an estimated $2.6 billion to $36.5 billion annually due to elder financial abuse and exploitation, funds that could be used to pay for basic needs such as housing, food, and medical care. Unfortunately, abuse occurs in every demographic and can happen to anyone — a family member, a neighbor, even you. While cases of elder abuse appear to have been on the rise during the pandemic, it is commonly understood that many cases never come to light. One study has estimated that only one in 24 cases of abuse are reported.
When we come together, we can prevent elder abuse from happening. We can put support services in place, and direct community resources toward addressing elder abuse. Our country must reaffirm our commitment to justice and create a sturdy structure of support that will benefit us all as we get older. Elder abuse is widespread. Every year an estimated 1 in 10 older Americans are victims of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation. And that’s only part of the picture: Experts believe that elder abuse is significantly under-reported, in part because so many of our communities lack the social supports that would make it easier for those who experience abuse to report it. In addition to being a clear violation of the American commitment to justice for all, elder abuse is an issue with many consequences for our society. Its effects on our communities range from public health to economic issues.
The good news is that we can prevent and address the issue of elder abuse. There are many ways to strengthen our social supports through policies, services, and programs that keep us integrated in our communities as we age.
- We can think about the role of transportation in reducing social isolation and adjust systems so that we can all continue to move throughout our communities as we age.
- We can figure out new and better ways to arrange and coordinate the teams, agencies, and programs that work specifically with older people.
- We can develop programs to educate families and professionals who work with older adults to understand the importance of preventing isolation, how to spot the warning signs of abuse, and what to do to address abuse or neglect. By doing all that we can to strengthen the social support structure, we can reduce social isolation, protect communities and families against elder abuse, and build a nation that lives up to our promise of justice for all.
For more information please contact Kewaunee County Human Services at 920-388-7030.
*Portions of this article were taken from the World Elder Abuse Awareness tool kit; https://eldermistreatment.usc.edu/weaad-home/take-action/