By JEAN BURGESS
When I took on the job with Salt Spring Island Community Services to work on some special programs for seniors, I had no idea I would be working on a community networking project related to preventing elder abuse, elder neglect and self neglect. Yikes. I was truly surprised at how urgent the problem is.
I myself have experienced ageism in various situations or conversations, usually when I take off my motorcycle helmet on the ferry and my white hair shows!
More seriously, so far I haven’t fallen prey to persuasive scams or family or caregiver violence, but then I am not yet isolated and very vulnerable. I have, however, had to look at my own attitudes about aging. Wow! There is really a cultural stigma to aging, both inside my head and outside. At the same time I know amazing elders everywhere. I understand our vulnerability intersects with our ethnic background, skin colour, disability, sexual orientation, income, gender identity and more. I am a descendent of white settlers and I was given a formal education and thus I carry a lot of privilege in this culture, yet I still feel a lurking unease as I age, countered mostly by a basic “Trust in Life,” along with the support found in talking with family and friends about our mortality.
June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day and on this occasion I wanted to share some statIstics. Numbers seem cold and impersonal, yet behind them are real people and “one senior abused is one too many.”
• One in two people are prejudiced against older people (Global Report on Ageism, World Health Organization).
• In Canada, a 2015 study estimated that 7.5 per cent of Canadians 55 and older experienced abuse (Into the Light National Survey on the Mistreatment of Older Canadians, National Initiative for the Care of the Elderly, 2015).
• Women aged 55-64 years comprised the largest proportion of victims of femicide (19%). (Call it Femicide Report, Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability, 2020).
• In Ontario, there was a 250 per cent increase in calls to the Seniors Safety Line in 2020 (Assaulted Women’s Help Line, 2021).
The basic human rights of older Canadians are being challenged and undercut every day. It is estimated that one in six seniors globally experience elder abuse. We, as a country, cannot allow this to continue.
Join me and the 80-plus networks in B.C. communities who are creating conversations around elder abuse prevention. The B.C. Association of Community Response Networks (BCCRN) at www.bccrns.ca has great information and resources. Salt Spring Community Services has partnered with the BCCRN, and I was asked to be a local coordinator.
Did you know that Island Health has three designated people authorized to follow up on concerns about elder/adult abuse, neglect or self neglect?
I am learning it takes a local network of people to help spread awareness around what can be done to uphold and protect the rights of older adults in our community.
On the BCCRN website you can “take the pledge” to raise awareness. I did, and now I feel both personally and professionally obligated to submit this piece to the Driftwood. This is my first ever letter to the editor in 73 years. Also, I will have an info table at Country Grocer today (Wednesday, June 15) from 3:30 to 6 p.m. I’d like to meet you and offer you information, giveaway items and complimentary refreshments.
June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day and the world theme this year is Human Rights Don’t Get Old.
Join us around the world and wear purple on June 15!