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Older and Wise

World Elder Abuse Day

Lise-Anne Deoul
Posted 6/10/22

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) was launched on June 15, 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United …

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Older and Wise

World Elder Abuse Day

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World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) was launched on June 15, 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations. 

The purpose of WEAAD is to provide an opportunity for communities around the world to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older people by raising awareness of the cultural, social, economic and demographic processes affecting elder abuse and neglect. In addition, WEAAD is in support of the United Nations International Plan of Action acknowledging the significance of elder abuse as a public health and human rights issue. 

In a society that values the just treatment of all people, WEAAD reminds us that elder abuse has implications for all of us, and so it’s important to find the right solutions to it. WEAAD is a call-to-action for society’s individuals, organizations, and communities to educate each other on how to identify, address and prevent abuse so we can all do our part to support everyone as we age.

 What is Elder Abuse? 

Elder abuse is the mistreatment or harming of an older person. It can include physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, along with neglect and financial exploitation. Many social factors—for example, a lack of support services and community resources—can make conditions ripe for elder abuse. 

Ageism (biases against or stereotypes about older people that keep them from being fully a part of their community) also play a role in enabling elder abuse. 

By changing these contributing factors, we can prevent elder abuse and make sure everyone has the opportunity to thrive as we age.

Red Flags of Abuse

Our communities are like structures that support people’s safety and well-being. One of the most important ways we can all contribute to this ongoing construction project is by looking out for warning signs of maltreatment. Does someone you know display any of these signs of abuse? If so, take action immediately. Everyone, at every age, deserves justice. Report suspected abuse as soon as possible. 

Types of Elder Abuse

Physical abuse: Use of force to threaten or physically injure an older person 

Emotional abuse: Verbal attacks, threats, rejection, isolation, or belittling acts that cause or could cause mental anguish, pain, or distress to an older person 

Sexual abuse: Sexual contact that is forced, tricked, threatened, or otherwise coerced upon an older person, including anyone who is unable to grant consent 

Exploitation: Theft, fraud, misuse or neglect of authority, and use of undue influence as a lever to gain control over an older person’s money or property 

Neglect: Failure or refusal to provide for an older person’s safety, physical, or emotional needs 

Emotional & Behavioral Signs 

Unusual changes in behavior or sleep 

Fear or anxiety 

Isolated or not responsive 

Depression 

Physical Signs 

Broken bones, bruises, and welts 

Cuts, sores or burns 

Untreated bed sores 

Torn, stained or bloody underclothing 

Unexplained sexually transmitted diseases 

Dirtiness, poor nutrition or dehydration 

Poor living conditions 

Lack of medical aids (glasses, walker, teeth, hearing aid, medications) 

Financial Signs 

Unusual changes in bank account or money management 

Unusual or sudden changes in a will or other financial documents 

Fraudulent signatures on financial documents 

Unpaid bills 

How can we prevent and address elder abuse?

We can lessen the risk of elder abuse by putting supports and foundations in place that make abuse difficult. If we think of society as a building that supports our well-being, then it makes sense to design the sturdiest building we can—one with the beams and load-bearing walls necessary to keep everyone safe and healthy as we age. 

For example, constructing community supports and human services for caregivers and older adults can alleviate risk factors tied to elder abuse. Increased funding can support efforts to train practitioners in aging-related care. Identifying ways to empower older adults will reduce the harmful effects of ageism. And leveraging expert knowledge can provide the tools needed to identify, address, and ultimately prevent abuse. 

How can we report suspected abuse? 

No matter how old we are, justice requires that we be treated as full members of our communities. If we notice some of these signs of abuse, it is our duty to report it to the proper authorities. 

Programs such as Adult Protective Services (APS) 845-513-2390, Office for the Aging 845-807-0241 and NY Connects 845-807-0257 are here to help.  

If you or someone you know is in a life threatening situation or immediate danger, call 911 or the local police or sheriff.

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