SENIORS’ HEALTH: Raising awareness of elder abuse

SENIORS’ HEALTH: Raising awareness of elder abuse

It’s estimated only one in 24 cases is reported

The Seniors Health Network each month poses a question to health-care professionals. This month, Louise Tremblay – regional mentor, BC Association of Community Response Networks and director of development, UNITI – was asked:

I read that Elder Abuse is an international issue and that people all over the world recognize it and I’m not really sure what it actually means. Could you tell me more about it?

June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. The day was launched in 2003 in Australia by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse. In 2011, the United Nations General Assembly officially recognized WEAAD as an international day and encouraged global participation from people of all ages.

Every year on or around June 15, individuals and organizations all over the world organize events that shine a light on elder abuse in the hope of creating awareness about the relationship dynamics and conditions that lead to this unfortunate situation faced by an increasing number of older adults in both the developing and developed world.

The UN defines elder abuse as a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person. This type of violence constitutes a violation of human rights and includes physical, sexual, psychological and emotional abuse; financial and material abuse; abandonment; neglect; and serious loss of dignity and respect.

The UN indicates that 15.7 per cent of people 60 years old and older experience one form of abuse or another, stating that this figure is likely higher given that the UN estimates that only one in 24 cases is reported.

As the definition suggests, elder abuse is a human-rights issue which is often predetermined by ageist attitudes, a form of discrimination based on a person’s age. As the global population is getting older, the problem is becoming more prevalent and many countries are adopting measures to educate their residents about the behaviours that lead to abuse and what to do if they witness them.

Reporting abuse can be a daunting task. The Public Guardianship and Trustee of B.C. has created a decision tree to guide us in navigating the system if we experience abuse or witness it. It takes into consideration the extent of the problem, the form of abuse and the level of cognitive abilities of the person who’s experiencing the abuse. The chart, online at, assists in asking the right questions and seeking the right avenues for help.

When it comes to abuse, the best prevention is education.

So, on June 15, wear purple and join us for lunch and a special presentation organized by the Semiahmoo Seniors Planning Table.

The event will be held at Mount Olive Lutheran Church, 2350 148 St., from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. To register, contact Comfort Keepers at 604-541-8654. Everyone is welcome.

The South Surrey White Rock Seniors Health Network is a coalition of seniors service providers working under the auspices of the Mayor of White Rock’s office – visit If you have a question for publication, please email