By Sherry Young
Living in Southwest Florida, we all know and love many older adults. For most of us, the thought of someone abusing or taking advantage of our elders is heartbreaking. And yet, the National Council on Aging estimates that one in 10 older Americans has been the victim of some sort of abuse.
Older people are vital, contributing members of our community who should be treated with respect and dignity. As a society, we have confronted and addressed the scourge of child abuse and domestic violence. In the same way, we can find solutions to address elder abuse.
That is why World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is so important. This Friday, June 15, communities all over the world will highlight the issue of Elder Abuse. World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is a call to action for individuals, organizations and communities to raise awareness about the abuse, neglect and exploitation of elders. It was established in 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, the World Health Organization, and the United Nations.
As a community, we can become more alert to the signs of abuse. Most of us would notice signs of physical abuse, such as unexplained bruises, cuts or sores. But we may not be as adept at noticing the red flags of emotional abuse, such as withdrawal from normal activities. We may not notice when our elders are being financially exploited by a friend, neighbor or caregiver who fails to provide for an elder’s needs. And we may turn our heads to signs of neglect such as poor hygiene or dangerous living conditions.
Of course, there are actions we can take to both prevent and report abuse. Simply being a friendly visitor to an older neighbor is a great start. If you know someone who is a caregiver for an elder, provide that person with emotional support. And if you suspect an elder is being abused, make a call to the abuse hotline at 800-96-ABUSE. Your call is completely confidential and could save a life.
The Area Agency on Aging for Southwest Florida offers free elder abuse prevention education programs to the community. If you would like someone to come speak with your group, organization or neighborhood association about how to identify and report elder abuse, call our toll-free helpline at 866-413-5337.
There’s one more thing you can do — the Area Agency on Aging for Southwest Florida is asking everyone to WEAR PURPLE on Friday, June 15, in support of elder abuse prevention. Why purple? Because we associate the color purple with royalty, dignity and respect — the same words we should be using to describe our elders.
So open your eyes (and your closet) to the issue of elder abuse on Friday. With more than 415,000 seniors making their homes in Southwest Florida, your awareness of this issue has never been more important.
(The author is Elder Abuse Prevention Coordinator for the Area Agency on Aging for Southwest Florida.)