Observing World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

Elder abuse is recognized by experts as a public health crisis that crosses socio-economic borders. Although millions of older Americans are abused, neglected, and exploited every year, an estimated 84 percent of cases go unreported. 

The International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the UN World Health Organization launched World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15, 2006. The eighth annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15, 2013, offers an opportunity to draw attention to the problem and the importance of preventing, identifying, and responding to it. 

Elder justice is a priority for the federal government, 365 days a year. The Elder Justice Interagency Working Group (EJWG) brings together federal officials responsible for carrying out elder justice activities including elder abuse prevention, research, grant and program funding, and prosecution. This informal group has been meeting since 2001 to discuss emerging issues, promising practices, and mechanisms for coordinating efforts throughout the federal government. It has proposed research and public education to increase understanding and earlier reporting of abuse, and screening tools to help specialists who work with people at risk. It also supports changes that will make it easier for law enforcement to identify, investigate, and prosecute abuse and financial exploitation.

The fact is that everyone can do something to protect older people. For example, call or visit older relatives, friends, and neighbors and ask how they’re doing. Provide a respite for a caregiver by filling in for a few hours or more. Or contact the adult protective services or long-term care ombudsman in your community to learn how to support their work helping older people who are at-risk.

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