June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day
Growing older can be a time of profound enjoyment and reflection, looking back on the years and how they were spent. But they can also be fraught with violence that goes unspoken, unnoticed and largely unreported. Consider Mark, a 65-year-old who has been financially supporting his son and his two grandchildren on a fixed income. He seems to be an unlikely victim of elder abuse. Unfortunately, Mark’s son became verbally and emotionally abusive and eventually it escalated to physical violence. Alice is 62 and has experienced abuse throughout her life from childhood, in her dating relationships and in her marriage. She managed to escape the violence in her marriage only to experience it at the hands of her daughter years later.
Abuse in later life is not an isolated phenomenon. There are potentially 5 million victims each year nationwide and, as with other forms of domestic or sexual violence, elder abuse does not discriminate based on ethnic background, gender or social status. Elder abuse includes neglect, maltreatment, financial exploitation, and physical, emotional and sexual abuse. It poses mounting risks to older adults as they age, their faculties fade, and they become increasingly vulnerable and in need of care. Tragically, it is often the caregivers, family members and confidants that are responsible.
June 15th marks the 10th annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD); a day to shine a light on the potential dangers our parents, grandparents, friends and neighbors may experience as they age. Each community needs to take action. Action can be a little extra notice, a little extra care with the older adults in your life. If something seems out of place (unexplained bruises, changes in personality and behavior), ask questions to gain a better understanding. Questions like:
• Is someone taking or using your money without your permission?
• Are you afraid of anyone?
• Is anybody hurting you?
Inquiries like these can yield unexpected but critical responses if an older adult needs help. If you or someone you know is in an unhealthy or abusive relationship we want you to know that Alexandra House is here to support you. You can call our confidential and free 24-hour help line. Alexandra House offers client-centered advocacy services specifically for adults 50 and over. An advocate is available to meet in-home or in another safe location of the client’s choosing over the course of several weeks or months to help each person achieve his or her personal goals for safety and well-being.
Abuse in later life is happening around us. But with vigilance and focus, we can work to make our communities a safe and vibrant place, free of violence and abuse. For more information about our free services and who we serve, please visit our website at www.alexandrahouse.org.
Join us in creating a world without violence against women, men and children.