What is Elder Abuse?
The camera closes in on retired veteran Montreal CFCF anchor man, Bill Haugland, as he sits at the counter stool of a typical Quebec family-owned coffee shop with a serious look on his face; it is his anchor-man-covering-an-important-issue face.
The mood is dark, the tone sober—and already we can sense that something very unpleasant is coming. We are conditioned to insulate ourselves from bad moments. And, as we try to prepare ourselves, Bill let’s us know that the topic is the aging North American population. It is about the predicament of growing older and learning to cope in a 24/7, click of a button world; it is about how we see ourselves and how we see others. It is, in part, about how persons, our own parents even, turn into victims and what we can all do to prevent such things from happening.
This is not the first “special” report we’ve seen on the elderly or on elder abuse. Lately there are commercials graphically demonstrating abuse in the form of harassment—physical, verbal and emotional. We read about specific cases where a senior is left to the mercy of their child or caretaker who misuses their position of trust and takes advantage of their charge financially, essentially robbing of them of their life-savings. The newspapers keep in the forefront of our consciousness the growing concern of abuse and what can be done if you are a witness or if you are a victim.
Awareness is the first step in the starting of a movement. In 2006 the World Health Organization held an international conference on the status of the elderly and the abuses they suffer. Out of this effort came collaboration with a number of countries around the world to work for the prevention of elder abuse. Canada joins in pursuit of this goal and Quebec is a leader with decades of work conducted in this area. In the Governmental Action Plan, these past efforts are listed:
Comité sur les abus à l’endroit des personnes âgées—mandated in 1987 by Santé et des Services sociaux Minister Thérèse Lavoie-Roux to draft the report Growing Old …And Remaining Free 1 – and the report from the Groupe d’experts sur les aînés Vers un nouvel équilibre des âges 2 made public in 1992 by the ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux.
In 2010, Quebec launched the Governmental Action Plan to Counter Elder Abuse 2010–2015 , which takes as its working definition of elder abuse “…a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person.” 3
Please note that June 15 has been designated World Elder Abuse Awareness Day and so this year take a moment to think of those seniors you know who are being treated fairly and with the respect due them and then hope for it to be universal.
1 Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux, Growing Old …And Remaining Free—Report of the Committee on Abuse of the Elderly, Québec, Le Ministère, 1989, 131 p.
2 Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux, Vers un nouvel équilibre des âges : rapport du groupe d’experts sur les personnes aînées, Québec, Le Ministère, 1992, 99 p. (available in French only).
3 Extract from the WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION’s Toronto Declaration on the Global Prevention of Elder Abuse, November 17, 2002.