Marking World Elder Abuse Awareness Day next week, hundreds of awareness and information sessions will take place throughout the United States, and across the globe, observing the theme of “Understand and End Financial Abuse of Older People: A Human Rights Issue.”
“As we see the proportion of elderly increase in all societies, the strain on the usual forms of care becomes intense,” said Dr. Christiaan Morssink, executive director for the United Nations Association of Greater Philadelphia.
“In such scenarios, the opportunity to exploit the frailty of the elders among us increases. Heartbreaking stories can be told from police and medical records in each country on this planet. It is with a bit of sorrow that I need to applaud the United Nations and the world community for declaring a World Elder Abuse Awareness Day,” said Morssink.
In 2002, the United Nations General Assembly, in its resolution 66/127, designated June 15 as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Elder abuse is a global social issue which affects the health and human rights of millions of older persons around the world, and an issue which deserves the attention of the international community.
Statistics from the National Council on Aging show that 1 in 10 Americans 60 and older have experienced elder abuse, and there is broad consensus that the crime is significantly under-reported. One study estimated that only 1 in 14 cases of abuse are reported to authorities. Elder financial abuse and fraud costs older Americans $36.5 billion per year and financial exploitation is self-reported at rates higher than emotional, physical, and sexual abuse or neglect.
“Banks are on the front line for detecting signs of financial abuse, such as changes in typical banking patterns, uncharacteristic attempts to wire large sums of money and sudden insufficient funds,” said Joseph Snyder, director of Older Adult Protective Service at Philadelphia Corporation for Aging and a former president of the National Adult Protective Services Association.
Collaborating with law enforcement, social workers, banks and community agencies is essential to prevent senior financial exploitation, according to Snyder. Along with the Philadelphia Financial Exploitation Prevention Task Force, Philadelphia Corporation for Aging will sponsor “Safe banking & financial management tips for seniors,” a free forum for seniors and caregivers at West Philadelphia's Ralston Center.
In the mid-west, the Minnesota Elder Justice Center will host its 11th annual Minnesota World Elder Abuse Awareness Day Conference at the Earle Brown Heritage Center in Brooklyn Center.
"It’s designed for professionals, but it’s absolutely open to the public,” said Elder Justice Center Outreach coordinator Katie Behrens. “Anyone with an interest in working to eliminate elder abuse” is welcomed to attend the conference, “Accelerating Towards Justice," which focuses on professionals who work with older adults.
AARP Maryland and Baltimore County Restoring Elder Safety Today (BC-REST) will host a forum and document shredding event at Baltimore County’s Randallstown Community Center, one of many AARP and its network are hosting throughout the nation commemorating the Day.
“Here in Virginia, the Department of Social Services Adult Protective Services is charged with investigating reports of elder abuse, including acts of financial exploitation, and assisting seniors who may be victims of abuse and their families to obtain help,” said Elizabeth Boehmcke. a lawyer practicing estate planning.
“As practitioners within the elder law community, we also run across situations in which a family member expresses concern about how their loved one is being treated by a neighbor, caregiver or sometimes even other family members. Determining when it is appropriate to call APS to report suspected elder abuse in our clients can be a difficult dilemma,” said Boehmcke.
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day represents the one day in the year when the whole world voices its opposition to the abuse and suffering inflicted to some of our older generations. This year’s theme underscores the importance of preventing financial exploitation, in the context of elder abuse, to the enjoyment of older persons’ human rights.
Through the many events and activities acknowledging World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, the public will have ample opportunities to improve its understanding of this form of elder abuse and discuss ways of ensuring the participation of older adults themselves in ending victimization.