by Kathy Greenlee, Assistant Secretary for Aging and ACL Administrator
It was an honor to be part of the Institute on Medicine’s (IOM) “Elder Abuse and Its Prevention: A Public Workshop of the Forum on Global Violence Prevention” in April. Carole Johnson from the White House Domestic Policy Council joined me in opening this meeting, reaffirming the Obama Administration’s commitment to work to prevent elder abuse and to promote greater awareness of this issue.
Elder abuse is a global public health problem. This abuse exists in both developing and developed countries, and is typically underreported. Although the exact extent of elder mistreatment is unknown, its social and moral significance is obvious. Elder abuse demands a global, multifaceted response focused on protecting the rights of older people. With this understanding, I believe the United States has an obligation to be in the vanguard in the fight against global elder abuse.
According to the World Health Organization, the global population of people aged 60 years and older will reach about 1.2 billion in 2025. Elders have a fundamental right to be free from abuse and violence. As the world ages, we must ask ourselves how we are going to address elder abuse globally. This was the question the IOM workshop sought to address.
Experts from across the world, including Brazil, England, Hong Kong, Canada, and the U.S. participated in the forum. The global diversity of the presenters made for exchanges on a range of issues that highlighted both the commonalities in elder abuse detection and prevention among the nations, as well as the unique concerns within individual countries that are linked to cultural contexts.
IOM members and participants were first provided with a global perspective on a wide range of topic areas. Sessions included discussion of:
Participants then joined subject-specific groups that were convened to explore prevention strategies in a variety of different settings, as well as challenges and barriers to implementing such strategies.
The workshop wrapped up with a comprehensive discussion of the opportunities for policy makers and a wide range of stakeholders—in the U.S. and globally—to strategize how to promote elder abuse awareness and prevention.
The two days were labor intensive, but well worth the effort. I came away with one main idea:
Elder abuse is universal, and every single person—advocates, policymakers, professionals, family members, and friends—must do their part to fight elder abuse. If we collectively fail, all the progress we are accomplishing in related issues can rapidly become undone. Indeed, if a diabetic person is neglected, they may not receive appropriate medical care. If an elder is financially exploited, all the work of financial advisors to prepare them for retirement can be lost along with the elder’s finances. If an elder is abused by a caregiver, it could affect their ability to age in place and avoid moving to a facility.
The bottom line is, elder abuse is wrong and must be stopped.
I applaud the IOM for holding this forum and adding to the conversation. And we must all acknowledge that there is much more work to be done. Please take this opportunity to raise awareness about elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation that occurs not only in our community, but in communities around the country and world. Visit the Year of Elder Abuse Prevention page on our website for ideas, tools, and resources to get started. I am committed—professionally and personally—to this cause. What about you? What have you done this week to end elder abuse?
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Last Modified: 4/2/2014