Key Takeaways

  • We all deserve to lead happy and healthy lives free from abuse as we age, yet older people are mistreated more often than we think.

  • Older adults are mistreated more often than we think due to the lack of supports in our communities.

  • It doesn’t have to be this way. In support of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) today, get involved in creating a stronger society that safeguards our communities and prevents abuse.

It could be happening to your neighbor, your aunt, or someone you know from church. It could be physical, emotional, or financial. Almost always, it is silent.

It is elder abuse, and it is more prevalent than you might think. Studies have found that at least one in 10 older adults living in the community experienced some form of abuse in the prior year. In almost 60% of incidents, the perpetrator is a family member.

Elder abuse is a hidden crime that robs older adults of their dignity, money, health, and in some cases, their lives. June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, a chance to shine a spotlight on this global challenge—and work as individuals and as a society to stop it.

While elder abuse is silent, there are warning signs. Some may be clearly visible—such as bruises or bedsores. Others may show up in unexpected ways. An older adult who was engaged and alert may become depressed and uninterested in people and activities they used to love. There may be sudden changes in the person’s finances that cannot be explained.

Each of us plays a role in understanding and reporting elder abuse. If you know of an older adult who is in immediate, life-threatening danger, call 911. If you suspect abuse, contact your local Adult Protective Services office by calling the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116.

While each of us as individuals needs to be vigilant, government needs to step up. In 2010, NCOA advocated for passage of the Elder Justice Act, the first comprehensive legislation to coordinate elder abuse prevention at the federal level. But it has taken more than 10 years to finally secure significant funding for it.

In response to the pandemic, the 2020 year-end funding bill included $100 million in emergency funding for elder justice programs. The American Rescue Plan signed by President Biden in March invests another $276 million per year in the Elder Justice Act over the next two years.

These resources are sorely needed and will be used quickly. But more work remains. NCOA continues to follow the lead of the Elder Justice Coalition in endorsing key bills to address financial exploitation, empower financial institutions, and strengthen activities on the judicial side of this effort. That includes the Stop Senior Scams Act and Elder Abuse Protection Act already introduced in the 117th Congress.

Abuse of any person at any age is intolerable. We must do all we can to ensure that every American is safe.