Today (June 15th) marks the 7th annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD). WEAAD was an idea that originated in Canada, and we are happy that it is now officially recognized by the United Nations. This special day will be an opportunity for all Canadians to reflect on how elder abuse threatens the well-being of seniors across Canada and around the world.
Are you aware that between 4 and 10 percent of Canadian seniors experience some kind of abuse? And did you know that more than 9 out of 10 Canadians consider raising awareness of elder abuse as a high priority?
Abuse is a serious issue that impacts people of all ages, including older adults. Elder abuse is prevalent in communities across Canada and affects seniors from all walks of life. It takes many forms, including financial, physical and psychological abuse and neglect.
One in five Canadians believes they know of a senior who might be experiencing some form of abuse. One of the biggest challenges in combatting elder abuse is actually detecting it in the first place. Sadly, instances of abuse are often hidden. Detection, prevention and raising awareness are key measures that must be taken to help win the fight against elder abuse.
In addition to awareness campaigns and new legislation to protect seniors, the Government of Canada, through the New Horizons for Seniors Program, provides funding to organizations across Canada for projects that address elder abuse.
WHAT HAVE WE DONE?
In 2008, the government launched the Federal Elder Abuse Initiative (FEAI), a multi-departmental, three-year initiative to help seniors and others recognize the signs and symptoms of elder abuse and to provide information on available supports. This initiative successfully concluded on March 31, 2011.
Building on the momentum created by the FEAI, the Government continues to address elder abuse through awareness campaigns and the New Horizons for Seniors Program (NHSP), which supports projects that expand awareness of elder abuse.
The objectives of the awareness campaigns are to help Canadians recognize the signs of elder abuse, and to give them information on available resources and supports.
In addition to awareness, the Government is further addressing elder abuse through recently introduced legislation, which would help ensure consistently tough penalties for offences involving abuse of elderly persons.
We have put forward legislation to amend the Criminal Code of Canada so that evidence that an offence had a significant impact on the victim due to their age -- and other personal circumstances such as health or financial situation -- would be considered an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes.
The amendments would ensure the consistent application of the established sentencing practice that violence against individuals who are vulnerable due to their age and other personal circumstances should be treated seriously.
THE NEW HORIZONS FOR SENIORS PROGRAM
This Program (NHSP) supports projects led or inspired by seniors who want to make a difference in the lives of others and in their communities. Since its beginning, the Program has funded more than 10,400 projects in hundreds of communities across Canada. I am in touch regularly with seniors organizations across Vegreville-Wainwright to remind them of application dates and funding information. If your organization has not heard from me, please send the name and contact information (including mailing address) to my office.
The Pan-Canadian project funding, under NHSP, provides support for networking, developing and delivering education and awareness activities, and creating tools and resources to help seniors protect themselves from elder abuse, including fraud and financial abuse.
This funding can also enable community members to better recognize elder abuse in all its forms and to improve the quality of life, safety and security of seniors. These projects must have a broad reach and impact and can identify and share promising practices across the country, enabling replication on what has worked well to address seniors’ issues.
The National Initiative for the Care of the Elderly (NICE)
The National Initiative for the Care of the Elderly (NICE) was awarded a contract in 2010 by HRSDC to conduct research on “Defining and Measuring Elder Abuse: Preparatory Work Required to Measure the Mistreatment of Older Adults in Canada.”
The objective of this research was to develop a national consensus on an approach to measure the prevalence of abuse and neglect of older adults. The research was completed in April 2012 and the instruments developed could be used in future prevalence studies to build reliable evidence in this area and help us to better understand the extent of this social problem.
For more information and resources on elder abuse, visit www.seniors.gc.ca where you can link to Elder Abuse – It’s Time to Face the Reality. You can also learn more about steps to combat financial abuse. To order publications on elder abuse and financial abuse, call 1 800 O-Canada (1-800-622-6232).