Mr. Hillman is correct – we need to “raise awareness about the issue of child abuse in our community.” While I agree with his statement, I want to expand that statement by saying that we need to increase awareness about all aspects of personal violence – against a child, a spouse or a senior citizen.
Children learn from what they see, hear and witness, and responsible adults need to be the eyes, ears and hands of those in our society who cannot advocate for themselves, regardless of age.
In psychology, we learn victims have the potential of becoming abusers because of learned behavior. Children see fathers shove, choke or slap mothers; a child may become a “stress-reliever” for an abusive parent; or a child witnesses mistreatment of grandparents. The cycle continues.
Elder abuse encompasses mistreatment, neglect and exploitation of a physical, psychological or sexual nature, and can be summarized as vast, cruel and costly. It can cause a cascade of consequences with implications for the health and economic security of victim, family, community and nation. Despite the 2010 passage of the Elder Justice Act, fighting widespread abuse of seniors still is not a top priority for care providers and governments alike. As many as one in 10 people age 60 and older are affected by senior abuse.
Why should you care about elder abuse? Because the older population continues to grow, and by 2030 there will be about 72.1 million older people, comprising almost 20 percent of the total population. The 85-plus population is projected to increase to 6.6 million in 2020.
While seniors are living longer, declines in cognitive and physical functions could make them more vulnerable to victimization. Elder abuse can happen to anyone – a loved one, a neighbor and, when we are old enough, it can even happen to us!
If you know of a victim or a potential victim of elder mistreatment, call your county Adult Protective Services at its toll-free number or contact our agency – the Senior Citizens Council, (706) 868-0120 – and we will assist you in making the referral. Remember: By making this referral, you might save a life.
Kathleen J. Ernce
(The writer is executive director of the Senior Citizens Council of Greater Augusta and the CSRA.)