Reflections on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

By Jennifer Link, TJCOG Long-Term Care Ombudsman

As we approach World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15, 2020, it seems more important than ever to lift up your voice to support a world without ageism

and elder abuse.  COVID-19 has revealed many of the inequities within American society.  One of those inequities is the cultural beliefs and stereotypes that exist about growing older.  Ageism has been exposed, likely to the greatest extent ever. It is a belief within a culture and its’ institutions that individuals who are in older adulthood are less valuable.  Ageism is also what perpetuates a society into not adequately protecting its oldest citizens. 

Stop for a moment and think about getting older yourself.  Are you thinking of it as an achievement or are you fearful about the future? A lot of people are afraid of growing older especially when all around us, we are bombarded with messages that tell us we aren’t beautiful if we have gray hair, we are weak because we move slower than before, we are not worth hiring because of age, or worst of all, we are expendable in the face of economic and health crises.

Ageism is when a society believes that it cannot shift into one that strongly values its oldest members.  Ageism is what fuels abuse, neglect and exploitation of elders just as sexism fuels violence against women and racism fuels unending injustices for people of color. For many older adults, these ‘ism’s intersect to place them in situations where they are physically abused; their needs are neglected to the detriment of the older person, and/or the elder endures financial and sexual exploitation or may even be trafficked.

We Americans like to say that everyone is equal and we live in a just society.  We do not.  But we can start to make it one by striving to do better by our senior citizens.  We can support them by demanding stronger laws that make elder abuse a serious crime.  We can start conversations about ageism and elder abuse and how it can be prevented. We can wear purple on June 15, 2020 to show we want a world without abuse. But the most important thing we can do, is make elders feel safe so they can lift up their voices.  Then, we can join all our voices as one. 


2020 World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) - Lifting Up Voices

 WEAAD aims to provide an opportunity for communities around the world to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons by raising awareness of the cultural, social, economic, and demographic processes affecting elder abuse and neglect. In addition, WEAAD is held in support of the UN International Plan of Action acknowledging the significance of elder abuse as a public health and human rights issue. This observance serves as a call-to-action for individuals, organizations, and communities to raise awareness about elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.