America’s senior citizens shape and strengthen the nation through continual professional and personal contributions. Throughout their lifetimes, many have experienced the horrors of war and economic depressions, achieved successes through education and principles of hard work, and established foundations of family, faith, and freedom upon which our nation stands. And, in the pursuit of knowledge and understanding, they have gained and shared immense wisdom with younger generations. For their many gifts to society, there is no group greater deserving of respect than seniors. Sadly, negative perceptions of the aging population and a lack of empathy for the elderly has led to neglect and mistreatment of some all-important members of this age group. To address this significant problem, the United Nations General Assembly has designated June 15th as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) to remind everyone that the world population of seniors deserves the upmost care and respect.
Per the United Nations, the global population of people aged 60 years and older is projected to more than double, from 900 million in 2015 to a whopping 2 billion in 2050. By 2020, the number of adults aged 60 years and older will outnumber children younger than 5 years. As the number of older people climbs worldwide, all countries will face major challenges related to the demographic shift. Sadly, elder abuse is predicted to increase all over the globe as countries experience rapidly ageing populations. Today, about 1 in 6 older people have experienced some form of abuse in the past year which can lead to serious physical injuries as well as long-term psychological consequences. Rates of abuse are likely higher for older people living in institutions who rely on others for help. Types of abuse can come in many forms; including financial exploitation, physical or sexual abuse, emotional mistreatment, or abandonment and neglect. Statistics demonstrate that elderly women are most vulnerable to abuse and that mistreatment of seniors in many cases goes unreported. Abuse does not stop on its own. We must all act to create awareness and to bring an end to elder abuse.
WEAAD, launched in 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations, focuses global attention on what the world can do to combat violence and protect the elderly. Among the important goals of the event is to unite senior citizens, caregivers, governments, academics, and private citizens to develop elder friendly policies and exchange ideas to improve care for older people. We must learn to recognize signs of elder abuse, immediately confront and correct situations, provide safe ways for people to report abuse, and foster overall respect for older individuals. World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is a growing campaign aimed at educating the public. Visit state and local government websites for a list of instructional workshops and events to attend. Get involved with AMAC, an organization that examines vital issues related to seniors, advocates for them, and salutes and honors the valuable contributions of older members of society. The commemoration of WEAAD reminds us of the critical role we play in keeping older Americans safe. In many states, people are required by law to report suspicions of physical or mental mistreatment. Moreover, it is unethical to turn a blind eye to abuse. If you recognize symptoms of abuse, exploitation, or neglect in seniors, it is vital to report it immediately. If a person is in imminent danger, call 911. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, whose mission it is to enhance and protect the health of all Americans, is another valuable resource for reporting abuse. Call the Eldercare Locator, at 1-800-677-1116, where specially trained operators can refer you to an agency that can help. Visit the Eldercare Locator or the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to gain further support and information.