Editorial: Elder abuse issue must be brought into the open

We all must step up to support the elders in our community

Like most forms of abuse, elder abuse is often hidden, something that happens behind closed doors and frequently – even more sadly – behind the veil of family ties.

As we work to raise awareness of child and spousal abuse, society must also be diligent about recognizing mistreatment – in all its forms – of senior members of our society.

What exactly are we talking about? The Canadian government describes elder abuse as “any action by someone in a relationship of trust that results in harm or distress to an older person. Neglect is a lack of action by that person in a relationship of trust with the same result. Commonly recognized types of elder abuse include physical, psychological and financial. Often, more than one type of abuse occurs at the same time. Abuse can be a single incident or a repeated pattern of behaviour.”

Financial abuse is the most commonly reported type of elder abuse.

The government suggests that one in five Canadians believes they know of a senior who might be experiencing some form of abuse. Like other forms of abuse, it can occur with seniors from all walks of life and in any community.

Beyond recognition, our response to elder abuse and neglect must also be vocal and public; we must make it clear that such behaviour is unacceptable and that individuals experiencing abuse have our support.

In honour of Elder Abuse Awareness Day, Victoria Community Response Network has doubled its efforts to increase community awareness through a series of public information sessions, including one tonight at Monterey Centre.

Elder abuse “occurs in a quiet private way and we need to highlight to the public their need to be active and engaged as opposed to being bystanders in looking out for our elders in the community,” notes the network’s Bridey Morrison Morgan, regional mentor.

“We have a shared responsibility to promote respect for all members of our society. Everyone has a role to play.”