June 15 has been designated as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization, and I’m glad to be able to help bring it to our attention. Here’s how the sponsors describe it:
Each year, an estimated 5 million older persons are abused, neglected, and exploited. In addition, elders throughout the United States lose an estimated $2.6 billion or more annually due to elder financial abuse and exploitation, funds that could have been used to pay for basic needs such as housing, food, and medical care. Unfortunately, no one is immune to abuse, neglect, and exploitation. It occurs in every demographic, and can happen to anyone—a family member, a neighbor, even you. Yet it is estimated that only about one in five of those crimes are ever discovered.
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) was launched on June 15, 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations. The purpose of WEAAD is to provide an opportunity for communities around the world to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons by raising awareness of the cultural, social, economic and demographic processes affecting elder abuse and neglect. In addition, WEAAD is in support of the United Nations International Plan of Action acknowledging the significance of elder abuse as a public health and human rights issue. WEAAD serves as a call-to-action for individuals, organizations, and communities to raise awareness about elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
The United Nations describes elder abuse as “a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person.” Examples include “physical, psychological or emotional, sexual and financial abuse.” Especially with demographic projections showing a steady growth in the older population, elder abuse is likely to take on greater significance in the coming years.
In 2013, I participated in a conference on bullying across the lifespan at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law. The conference brought together academics, practitioners, and advocates from across the country who have been addressing the legal and policy aspects of bullying in different social and institutional settings. It took a chronological approach, starting with bullying among school kids, moving on to higher education settings, then to the workplace, and finally to seniors. The final panel examined best practices across that span. The gathering served as an excellent connect-the-dots reminder that interpersonal abuse and bullying can and do occur at every age stage.