A combined effort by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) was officially launched on June 15, 2006 at the United Nations. Designed to raise awareness and understanding of elder abuse as a human rights issue, WEAAD has been recognized world-wide every year since on June 15.
Each year has a special theme to recognize the day with this year’s theme being Seeds for Change, Growing the Conversation. In order to help us grow the conversation, we spoke with Rochella Vassell, the Central West Consultant for Elder Abuse Ontario.
“World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is important because elder abuse is one of those things people don’t really think about until it happens to them. We are all getting older, we all have older adults in our life who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. This day brings the issue of elder abuse to the forefront, to educate the population as well as help mitigate incidences of such abuse.”
Elder abuse is one of the most underreported crimes in Canada. In fact, one study estimates that only 20% of incidents ever come to the attention of a person who can help. Whether it is physical, psychological, financial or sexual abuse, or neglect there are signs to watch for.
- Physical Abuse: look for bruises and unexplained injuries, or injuries inconsistent with the stories that are being presented.
- Psychological Abuse: if a once outgoing or happy individual is suddenly depressed or anxious, they may be dealing with psychological abuse. Look to see if they are withdrawn, seeming fearful or isolating themselves from family and friends.
- Financial Abuse: missing money from accounts and the inability to pay rent or other bills can be signs of financial abuse. Another indicator is the sudden move of a senior to a long term care facility or having their property sold after designating someone as their power of attorney.
- Sexual Abuse: unexplained venereal disease or genital infections, torn or stained underclothing, and inappropriate sexual comments are common indicators of sexual abuse.
- Neglect: signs of neglect often include weight loss, poor hygiene, and limited or no access to assisted devices such as medication, hearing aids, glasses and walkers.
If you suspect someone is a victim of elder abuse or you yourself are suffering in silence, Elder Abuse Ontario recommends calling the Seniors Safety Line at 1-866-299-1011 for support. This line is answered 24/7 and is available in 150 languages.
“We are funded by the Province of Ontario, and governed by the Ministry of Senior Affairs, and as such have many resources around what abusive behaviour is. We also teach seniors how to protect themselves. In fact, and one of the most proactive measures a senior can take is staying socially connected,” says Ms. Vassell.
Those looking to expand their social circles and make new friends in a safe place can also look to Amintro, the social app exclusively for adults aged 50 plus. Through Amintro seniors can connect with others confidently online and then head out to explore the community, try out different events, and lead a healthier, happier life in the company of others.
By Christine Tompa