In recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15th, communities across the country and around the world raise the visibility of elder abuse by sharing information about abuse, neglect, and exploitation in later life and promoting the resources and services that work to increase victim safety and improve offender accountability. This day memorializes the United Nations’ recognition of elder abuse as a public health and human rights issue.
Elder abuse can include physical, sexual, or psychological abuse, as well as neglect, abandonment, and financial exploitation of an older person. Elder abuse can occur either in a relationship where there is an expectation of trust (involving a family member, friend or care provider) and/or when an older person is targeted based on age or disability.
We know that elder abuse victims face unique obstacles in getting the help and services that they need. Age or disability can increase the isolation of older victims who may not ask for help or call the police due to shame, embarrassment, or intimidation. Abuse is too often dismissed by claims that the older person is confused or mentally incompetent. Professionals may wrongly perceive a victim’s injuries as arising from aging, illness, or disability instead of violence. Without services designed to meet the specific needs of older victims, many are left with no community resources to rely on for assistance.
People 85 and older, the fastest growing segment of the population, are disproportionately women, so the Office on Violence Against Women has a particular role to play. These demographic trends have significant implications for victimization, safety, suffering, health, and well-being of tens of millions of older Americans.
In order to address the needs of older victims, Congress created the Enhanced Training and Services to End Violence Against and Abuse of Women Later in Life Program – as part of the Violence Against Women Act. This year, OVW will fund projects that support a comprehensive approach to addressing elder abuse that includes specialized training for criminal justice professionals, staff in government agencies, and victim service providers; training on recognizing and responding to violence for professionals working with older victims; enhancing services for older victims; and supporting a coordinated community response to elder abuse. For more information, please visit our website at www.ovw.usdoj.gov.
As part of this year’s recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, OVW is actively participating in an event at the White House highlighting the problem of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation. It is our goal to empower older persons and the communities where they reside with relevant information and resources to ensure that our nation’s elders can live in safe and healthy environments – something we all deserve.