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Elder Advocates Visit U.S. Congress in National Advocacy Day

September 15, 2009 Leave a comment

On September 15, roughly 150 advocates for elder rights from around the United States will be visiting their representatives in the U.S. Congress in an Advocacy Day organized by WITNESS partner NCOA, the National Council on Aging. Among the issues they’ll be advocating for is the passing of the Elder Justice Act (EJA), federal legislation that would provide a foundation to prevent, detect, treat, intervene in and prosecute elder abuse.

Each year, an estimated 5 million elders in the U.S. are subject to physical, financial, and mental abuse resulting in illness, suffering, and premature death.   WITNESS and NCOA are working on a new video that will Break the Silence on this crisis and urge Congress to prioritize and pass the EJA.  Several elders and advocates have already sent their video messages to Congress.  You can take action too!

3 Things You Can Do Now

  1. Sign this petition calling on Congress to Pass the EJA
  2. Call your senators and representatives and ask them to support the EJA
  3. Help Break the Silence and Share Your Story of elder abuse via text or video
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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

Break the Silence: Elder Abuse in America [Video]

There is a silent crisis that effects every community in America: Elder abuse. Each year an estimated 5 million of America’s older adults are beaten, ignored or financially exploited. Yet, as a country, we remain silent about this growing crisis.

To begin to address this problem, Congress has an immediate opportunity to pass federal legislation that will provide a foundation from which we can begin to protect our country’s elders — the Elder Justice Act. But we cannot do this without your help. Please help us break the silence by adding your voice to the national campaign and urge Congress to pass the Elder Justice Act now!

3 Things You Can DO

More Information on the Elder Justice Act and the campaign to get it passed

Facts About Elder Abuse in the United States

Elder abuse includes physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation, neglect, and abandonment.  Perpetrators include children, other family members, and spouses – as well as staff at nursing homes and assisted living and other facilities.  It has become “the crime of the 21st century” as America rapidly ages.

  • Nearly five million cases of elder abuse occur each year, but 85% go unreported.
  • The typical victim of elder abuse is a woman over 75 who lives alone.
  • Some 14,000 allegations of abuse, neglect or gross negligence are reported in nursing homes.
  • Close to 50% of those with dementia experience some form of abuse.
  • Elders who have been abused have a 300% higher risk of death when compared to those who are not mistreated.
  • Elder financial abuse costs older Americans more than $2.6 billion per year.
  • Family, friends, caregivers and neighbors are the culprits in financial abuse cases more than half the time.
  • Less than 2% of federal abuse prevention dollars go to elder mistreatment efforts. 91% is spent on child abuse and 7% on domestic abuse.
  • Financial abuse accounts for nearly 21% of the allegations of mistreatment investigated by Adult Protective Services.
  • By 2030, the numbers of older Americans over age 85 – those most at risk for abuse – will more than double.

A Silent Crisis: Elder Abuse and Justice in America

June 16, 2009 1 comment

My grandmother’s life intersected squarely with the unprecedented rise in life expectancy for all elders. This rise has also led to one of our greatest silent crises: elder abuse.

About same time Alzheimer’s began to cloud my grandmother’s once sharp mind, she heard a knock on the door of her 3rd floor apartment in Des Moines, Iowa. She opened it to find a friendly salesman selling John F. Kennedy half-dollars made out of pure gold in a frame with a blue velvet backing. They made an exchange –she handed him a check for $900 and the swindler gave her one dollar in coins.

ELDER ABUSE IN THE UNITED STATES

For millions of elderly people in the United States just like my grandmother, living longer has also meant living in silent fear, battered and beaten, preyed upon, often quieted by shame. Elder abuse is a prolific problem that comes in many forms – physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect and financial exploitation, with many elders suffering more than just one type of abuse. Of the five million elders estimated to suffer abuse in the U.S. alone each year, the vast majority are subject to multiple forms of mistreatment. They are also three times more likely to die prematurely than those who are not victimized.

Yet, elder abuse is not perceived as a national tragedy. No one talks about it. Silence remains, in part, because many of our elders are isolated by and dependent on those who hurt them, and the perceived shame and stigma of disclosing that they are suffering at the hands of their own caregiver can act as a powerful silencer. But abuse also stays hidden because many older Americans don’t have the means or the capacity to report it.

At the rare times when elder abuse is publicly discussed, the conversations usually feature the voices Elder Justice advocates, social workers or journalists. A typical example is this CBS News report from 2006. Only occasionally do we get a glimpse into the elders’ views which can be seen in this video taken at an elder justice rally.

Insights from these experts are critical in the fight to secure justice for older Americans but so is the wisdom from these elders themselves, and to date their voices have been absent from the debate that affects them most directly.

I was surprised to learn how deeply buried this issue is because elder abuse touches us all. It cuts across gender, social, racial, ethnic, economic and geographic lines – yet it’s rarely mentioned in social justice or human rights circles nationally or even internationally. Key UN documents from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to the Millennium Development Goals omit any mention of age. And here at home the U.S Congress has yet to pass comprehensive federal legislation to protect our oldest members of society, placing it 20 years behind advocacy to protect children from abuse and 10 years behind the work to end domestic violence.

THE ELDER JUSTICE COALITION

To address this colossal fissure in our laws, more than 500 members of the Elder Justice Coalition (EJC) have been vigilantly working over the course of the last decade to secure the passage of the Elder Justice Act (EJA) through Congress. Passing this Act will provide us with a foundation from which we can begin to protect our society’s elders because it will provide long-needed support for programs to help us understand how to prevent and detect abuse, intervene where it happens, treat victims with dignity and respect, and fairly prosecute perpetrators.

Yet despite the EJA’s principled objectives and many years of effort, one of the authors of the Act, Marie-Therese Connolly explains, “Comprehensive federal laws to combat child abuse and domestic violence have had an immense impact for decades. By contrast, the relatively uncontroversial Elder Justice Act has languished (in Congress) since 2002.” With the recent changes in Washington, now is the time to pass this act and give America’s elders the security, dignity and equality they deserve.

A NEW WITNESS PARTNERSHIP with the NATIONAL COUNCIL ON AGING

So why is this important to WITNESS? We are partnering with the National Council on Aging (NCOA) – which has been working on behalf of disadvantaged and vulnerable Elders for over 60 years – to bring the voices of Older Americans to this debate, heighten the visibility of Elder abuse, and end Congressional complacency. In addition to securing passage of the EJA, WITNESS and NCOA will work with Elder Justice organizations across the country, training activists in strategic video advocacy planning and giving them the skills necessary to collect stories of abuse to bring Elder Justice into the national conversation.

Once footage from across the country has been gathered and edited, we will collaborate to reach key Congressional representatives, the national media and our citizenry with compelling stories which will force us to face our elders, end our collective denial and pass the EJA.

YOU TOO CAN STAND UP FOR OUR ELDERS

WITNESS and NCOA are just beginning work on the planning of this video advocacy campaign. We’d like you to join in as we move forward with this campaign to pass the Elder Justice Act and showcase the voices of older Americans:

• Return to the Hub Blog for updates on the production process in the weeks and months ahead

• Sign up for the Video for Change newsletter for updates on the Elder Justice Campaign

• Read more about the work of the NCOA at http://www.ncoa.org, and

• Visit the site of the Elder Justice Coalition at http://www.elderjusticecoalition.com/

Most of all though, we ask you to listen as we bring the voices of American’s elders to you throughout this campaign. Please hear what they have to say. Respect their voice. Value their wisdom. Add yours.

[This post was written by Nicole Schilit, WITNESS’ North America Program Intern, and Kelly Matheson, North America Program Coordinator]

This post originally appeared on WITNESS’ 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.