June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, which joins communities locally, regionally, nationally, and across the world to heighten the awareness of elder abuse. Launched in 2006, the event is meant to increase senior safety and well-being through supporting the United Nations International Plan of Action, acknowledging the significance of elder abuse as a public health and human rights issue.
And the Sault Ste. Marie is proud to show its support for the senior community.
The Seniors Rights Protection Council of SSM and Area hosted its 10th Annual ‘Seniors in the Know’ Seminar. Stacey Shiels, Chair of the Senior Rights Protection Council, told SaultOnline that this event has grown massively in scope since its inception.
This was a free community service provider fair held at the Senior Citizens Drop In Centre, attended by 130 people. The event consisted of information provided by organizations with a vested interest in senior health and wellness, including Algoma Public Health, Ministry of Senior Affairs, Elder Abuse Ontario, and Bayshore Home Health. Attendees had the opportunity to hear from these organizations in order to have an open conversation about elder abuse, but also elder concerns.
Stacey Shiels, Chair of Senior Rights Protection Council, explained “We try to bring someone (a speaker) in to cover every area of elder abuse, so sexual, financial, psychological, physical, and neglect.” She continued, “Every year, we give out a satisfaction survey so we can see what people want to hear, what they want to learn about, and that helps us to decide on speakers.”
Some of the popular topics, Shiels said, are wills, power of attorney, medication, and Alzhiemer’s/dementia.
One of the organizations presenting, Rising Stars Sault Ste. Marie, formed in 2001, provide educational entertainment to highlight the important issues that affect seniors. Evelyn Theriault, representative from Rising Stars, said “We started off with slips, trips and falls, loss of eyesight, loss of hearing, trying to teach seniors to be aware about aging.” She continued, “as we have been out in the public more and more, we’ve had more requests to do different skits – and elder abuse is one of the big ones now.”
She explained that people seem to finally be talking about elder abuse, and emphasized how critical it is that people understand the terminology and what it actually looks like.
This is especially important when you consider that elders are most commonly abused by people they know, whether it be a spouse or child, than in long-term care homes as most people think. The reason for this, Elder Abuse Ontario Regional Consultant Josée Miljours explained, is “We do have legislation in long-term care and in retirement homes, whereas in the community, within the family, it’s different.”
Not to mention 6% to 10% of seniors in Ontario are abused – there are between 120,00 and 400,00 seniors in the provinces who have experienced or who are experiencing elder abuse.
Miljours also spoke to different forms of elder abuse and common misconceptions, “We always assume that financial abuse is the most common form, but recent studies have shown that psychological abuse, or emotional abuse, is the most common form.”
Because of the many different forms that elder abuse can take and the shame and stigma surrounding the issue for many people, events such as these ones – and days of recognition like World Elder Abuse Awareness Day – are critical in keeping the conversation moving forward.
For more information on elder abuse, elder rights, or the Safe Communities Partnership in general, click here.