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Is Elder Financial Abuse the Crime of the 21st Century?

According to Fred Joseph, president of the North American Securities Administrators Association, “Elder financial abuse is becoming the crime of the 21st century’’. He was quoted in a Washington Post article that focused on the link between the growing recession in the U.S. and the increase in elder financial abuse. Though there may be debate about if elder financial abuse is the ‘crime of the century’, there is no doubt that it is a burgeoning crisis in the U.S. This video from the California Attorney General’s Office is a good introduction to the issue – and how to help prevent elder financial abuse.

As we’ve written about, WITNESS and the National Council on Aging have partnered to address a silent crisis in America: elder abuse. This summer and fall, dozens of video stories and testimonies about elder abuse, some from the estimated annual five million victims of elder abuse, are being gathered and shared to help break the silence and pass the Elder Justice Act, pending legislation that will provide holistic support to help detect, prosecute and prevent elder abuse.

Elder abuse can take many forms (which you can learn more about here and here), one of which is the financial abuse of seniors – the illegal or improper use of an elder’s funds, property or assets. Examples range from the financial abuse my colleague Kelly’s grandmother endured when she was swindled by a door-to-door salesman (read thief) to a family member signing checks from their elder’s account without permission.

Though underreported, the annual loss is estimated to be at least $2.6 billion, according to a recent report (pdf) from MetLife Mature Market Institute, produced in conjunction with the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and Virginia Tech University. It goes on to state that the typical victim of elder abuse is a woman over 75 who lives alone and the “increased aging population, social changes, and technology advances will lead to a dramatic increase in the opportunity for a growing level of elder abuse”.

Groups around the country are working to highlight the urgency of elder financial abuse – particularly during these tough economic times – and helping to provide services to victims and their families. Below, please find a few resources that may be of assistance.

The National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse has a very good financial abuse section.

The Elder Financial Protection Network works to prevent financial abuse and has a section on elder financial abuse and a great petition to help pass the Elder Justice Act – add your signature!

To report elder abuse you can call 800.677.1116 or visit the National Center on Elder Abuse to find a local office; and Adult Protective Services– is always a great resource!

Learn More About Elder Abuse

A background on the elder justice now campaign

FAQ about elder abuse

What the Elder Justice Act is and will do

WITNESS’ Partner: NCOA

Take Action Now!

Help Raise Awareness About Elder Justice

Share Your Story to Help Break the Silence

Sign-up for WITNESS’ Newsletter to Keep Informed and to Take Action

Watch Elder Justice-Related Videos

WATCH the campaign video: Break the Silence – Elder Abuse in America

WITNESS Blog: Spotlight on Elder Abuse Videos for Change

Elder Abuse-Related Videos on the Hub

June 15: World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

Monday, June 15, is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, which works to recognize elder abuse as a public health and human rights issue and raise awareness to put an end to the abuse and neglect of older persons. The day is sponsored by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA), and it asks you to show your support by attending or hosting an event on Monday – as well as by wearing the color purple.

WITNESS is partnered with the National Council on Aging to help break the silence on elder abuse in the United States – and urge Congress to pass the Elder Justice Act. On this day of World Elder Abuse Awareness, I wanted to feature some of the best elder abuse-related videos we’ve found so far (if you know of others, please share them with us!).
First up is a very powerful 30-second elder abuse public service announcement out of Ontario, Canada. There are very few videos out there on elder abuse from North America (outside of lawyers trying to get clients), but I believe this one could be replicated and reused in many societies.

Age Demands Action is a video from Help Age International that features actions to raise awareness and call for accountability of elder abuse in 35 countries on October 1, 2008. I think it is a good video to highlight an elder justice campaign by, for and on behalf of older persons.

This video from Age Concern of New Zealand is a good intro to what elder abuse is and how people need to act to deal with it. It focuses on respect and the video serves as a training resource examines what ‘respect’ means and includes case studies that show how a lack of respect can lead to elder abuse and neglect.

This video is of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel testifying before the House Judiciary Committee about the Elder Justice Act in 2008 as the House Democratic Caucus Chairman.

Special thanks to Masha Medvedkov, a fantastic WITNESS intern, for her research for and assistance with this post, which was originally posted on the WITNESS Hub.

Elder Justice: Share a Story

April 21, 2009 1 comment

IT’S TIME TO SPEAK OUT

On May 22nd in theatres across the United States, actor William Mapother – best known for his role as Ethan in the television series Lost – will ask all Americans to join him in the fight to end elder abuse and restore rights for older Americans.

Unfortunately, no one is guaranteed to be free from abuse in our latter years. Elder abuse affects millions of citizens each year in the United States and cuts across gender, racial, ethnic, religious, geographic and socio-economic lines. Perhaps even more importantly, the problem is only poised to grow as the boomer generation starts to retire. So it’s vital that we come together, bring this problem out of the shadows and speak up about an issue that has or will affect each of us personally, whether when our own basic rights are violated or when elder abuse happens to someone we may know.

Over the course of the last two decades, the National Center on Elder Abuse – a program of the Administration on Aging – has been working diligently to bring attention to this issue. Their Join Us Now campaign which sponsored the elder abuse information piece above is only part of a larger effort to bring the issue of elder abuse out of the shadows. WITNESS and the National Council on Aging (NCOA) are supporting this effort by asking you to share your stories about elder abuse as well as your though on how we can stop this crisis. My own personal story is below and also in this piece I wrote a few weeks ago.

Next month, as part of our partnership to end elder abuse with NCOA, we will be at the University of Southern California to train elder justice advocates from across the country how to use video to advocate for elder rights. Our two main goals will be:

1) to bring elder abuse into the national spotlight by empowering elders to share their stories and communicate their needs to key decision-makers;

2) to secure the passage of the Elder Justice Act so we can have a federal foundation on which to build security, dignity and equality for community members who have given us a lifetime of contributions.

GET INVOLVED

There are a number of ways you too can help make a difference and get engaged in the fight to build a society that protects the rights of all its members. Here are a few:

1) Help Raise Awareness About Elder Justice

In addition to emailing your friends and family to let them know about this campaign, you can also join the WITNESS email list where we’ll post regular updates about this campaign.

2) Share your story about elder abuse

Join the conversation on the Hub by leaving a comment below or uploading a video about Elder Justice (to upload, join the Hub now – it’s easy and free). Make sure to tag your video “Elder Justice”. You can also add your story to NCOA’s website by clicking here.

3) Stay Informed!

Subscribe to our Video for Change newsletter and join the NCOA network.

And finally, a special word to Bloggers & Vloggers… Help us spread the word – if you blog about the Elder Justice Campaign, please send us an email or a tweet (@witnessorg)… Also, if you want to add a Hub button on your blog, get one here!


This post originally appeared on the WITNESS Hub.