Respect Your Elders: World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

According the Statistics Canada and a report on an aging population, seniors (adults aged 65 and older) are expected to outnumber the young (children aged zero to 14) in as little as three years.  It’s a first in Canada’s history.  Globally, the population of seniors exceeding the young is estimated to occur in 2050. In recognition of the senior population, United Nations designates certain days of the year to bring awareness to challenges and opportunities that come with an aging population.  June 15th is recognized as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD).  The focus of this day is to bring together seniors and their caregivers, agencies, businesses and governments to share ideas and develop policies to protect and support seniors from elder abuse.

By definition, elder abuse is any physical, emotional, financial abuse, by way of neglect, violence or exploitation of a senior citizen. Unfortunately, it’s not unusual to turn on the news and hear about a senior that has been the victim of a crime, or involved in a difficult situation that could have been avoided.  Even more disturbing are the cases of elder abuse that happen that we never hear about.  There are always challenges that come with aging, but according to research from World Health Organization, elder abuse is the biggest issue facing senior citizens around the world.
Many factors can put seniors at risk for abuse.  Lack of family support, or social isolation, lack of education, low income and health issues are just a few.  Many seniors are living on fixed incomes and dependent on family or social agencies for assistance with daily living. The added stress of abuse can put vulnerable citizens into dire straits, or even complete poverty.  United Way provides funding to many organizations that are able to help prevent people from falling into vulnerable situations. For seniors, in particular, there are four funded partner agencies of United Way dedicated to the care and protection of seniors, vulnerable elderly or family members and caregivers of the elderly.  

Protection of seniors and prevention of elder abuse can start with knowing the signs of susceptibility. Once we know what to watch for, then we also know what it looks like if we see it happening to a family member or a beloved senior in our life. In addition to the services of the funded agencies of United Way, Alberta Health Services (AHS) is a great educational resource for information related to the aging population as well as, elder abuse awareness and prevention.

June 15th may be the official World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, but my request to you is that you remain mindful year-round of the issues of elder abuse and protect the seniors in your life and your own community.  Learn what you can about elder abuse and if you know someone that might be abused, report it to the police.  Your thoughtfulness makes a world of difference.