Local organization marks World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

STRAIT AREA: For the past 14 years, communities throughout the country and around the world have honoured June 15 to raise awareness of elder abuse as a public health and human rights issue.

The International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations (UN) launched the first World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) on June 15, 2006. This year, concerns about elder abuse continue in a new context—the middle of a global pandemic.

“Paying attention to the possibility of elder abuse is especially important at times like this when many Nova Scotians have been confined largely to their homes in response to Covid-19,” said Mary MacLellan, coordinator with Pictou County Seniors Outreach.

Elder abuse can show up in many different forms, emotional, mental and verbal abuse, financial abuse, violation of rights and freedoms, neglect, systemic abuse, and sexual abuse. Some researchers believe that elder abuse is significantly under-reported, in part because so many of our communities lack the social supports that would make it easier for those who experience abuse to report it. Some older adults are living with their abuser and they are less likely to be able to access help.

“This is a time to remember that old adage, ‘You can judge a society by how it treats its most vulnerable members,’” said Dominic Boyd, a Pictou County resident who specializes in social work with seniors. “Some older adults may be among our most vulnerable, and we have to work harder to prevent and mitigate abusive situations.”

In a survey released in 2016 by the National Initiative for the Care of the Elderly, it was estimated that 766,000 Canadian seniors were abused. Given that Canada’s senior population is increasing, researchers believe that rates of elder abuse are likely to go up. Nova Scotia has one of the oldest populations in Canada, with close to 25 per cent of its population over 65 years old, with projections that it will increase in the years to come.

“We need to be prepared for the reality the rates will also rise in our province,” said Leanne Taylor, Caregiver Support Coordinator (Northern Region) with Caregivers Nova Scotia. “There is support available from non-profit organizations for the elderly and their families. The elderly have taken care of us, and now it’s our turn to ensure their health and well-being.”

MacLellan, Boyd and Taylor are all members of the Aging Well Together Coalitions in Antigonish and Pictou Counties. Aging Well Together Coalitions consist of many community partners and work together to address issues impacting older adults in their areas. The coalitions are supported by Community Links, a province-wide organization that supports the establishment of age-friendly, inclusive communities by linking with others to promote needed changes.

“When we come together in our communities, we can prevent elder abuse from happening,” said Dian Day, a regional coordinator with Community Links. “We need to ensure there are support services in place, so we can direct community resources toward addressing elder abuse. When we have a strong social support structure, we can reduce social isolation and protect our communities and families against elder abuse.”

Those with concerns about elder abuse can contact their local Seniors’ Safety Coordinator. In Antigonish County call Anita Stewart at (902) 318-0372 (cell) or e-mail: seniorsafetycoor@gmail.com, and in Richmond County, call Michele MacPhee at (902) 587-2800 extension 5 or e-mail: seniorsafetycoordinator.dkmchc@gmail.com.

To join the Pictou-Antigonish Aging Well Together Coalition, contact Dian Day, Regional Coordinator Pictou, Antigonish, Richmond Counties at 902-485-6888 or: dian.day@nscommunitylinks.