Every American deserves to live his or her golden years with dignity and respect. Unfortunately, too many of our country's seniors are abused and neglected, often by the very people responsible for their care. According to the best available estimates, approximately 700,000 to 3.5 million older Americans are abused, neglected, or exploited each year. Elders who experience abuse, neglect, or self‐neglect face considerably higher risk of premature death, up to 300% higher, than elders who have not been mistreated. Elder abuse can occur anywhere, and it affects seniors across America, of all socioeconomic groups, cultures, and races. Across these groups, however, studies show that the majority of victims are female.
In response to this growing issue, on June 15, 2006, The International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse collaborated with organizations around the globe to launch World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
Also in 2006, provisions were added to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) to allow those funds to assist victims of elder abuse and late life domestic violence. But there is still much work to be done. New provisions protecting the elderly are the smallest appropriation of VAWA funds at about 1%, and only 1.5% of domestic violence programs have support groups for older victims.
Today, we recommit ourselves to fighting elder abuse. To commemorate the 5th Annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, agencies and organizations across the country are encouraging individuals to recognize this underreported issue and raise awareness about the mistreatment of seniors. This is especially important, as research suggests that elder abuse is significantly under-identified and under-reported, and that as few as 1 in 6 cases of elder abuse come to the attention of authorities.
The HHS Administration on Aging and the Department of Justice are co-sponsoring an event to highlight the issue. And the National Center for State Courts is launching its Center for Elders and the Courts website, which will provide tools and information on aging issues, elder abuse, and guardianships for judges and court staffers. Statewide activities will also occur throughout the day to join the effort to protect our nation’s elders.
Tina Tchen is Director of the Office of Public Engagement and Executive Director of the Council on Women and Girls