World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD), June 15

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What is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day?

What Is Elder Abuse.Each year, hundreds of thousands of older persons are abused, neglected, and exploited.

In addition, elders throughout the United States lose an estimated $2.6 billion or more annually due to elder financial abuse and exploitation, funds that could have been used to pay for basic needs such as housing, food, and medical care. Unfortunately, no one is immune to abuse, neglect, and exploitation. It occurs in every demographic, and can happen to anyone—a family member, a neighbor, even you.

Yet it is estimated that only about one in five of those crimes are ever discovered.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) was launched on June 15, 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations. The purpose of WEAAD is to provide an opportunity for communities around the world to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons by raising awareness of the cultural, social, economic and demographic processes affecting elder abuse and neglect. In addition, WEAAD is in support of the United Nations International Plan of Action acknowledging the significance of elder abuse as a public health and human rights issue. WEAAD serves as a call-to-action for individuals, organizations, and communities to raise awareness about elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

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Elder abuse (also called “elder mistreatment,” “senior abuse,” “abuse in later life,” “abuse of older adults,” “abuse of older women,” and “abuse of older men”) is “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.” This definition has been adopted by the World Health Organization from a definition put forward by Action on Elder Abuse in the UK. Laws protecting the elderly from abuse are similar to, and related to, laws protecting dependent adults from abuse.

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The core element to the harm of elder abuse is the “expectation of trust” of the older person toward their abuser. Thus, it includes harms by people the older person knows or with whom they have a relationship, such as a spouse, partner or family member, a friend or neighbor, or people that the older person relies on for services. Many forms of elder abuse are recognized as types of domestic violence or family violence.

While there are a variety of circumstances that count as elder abuse, it does not include general criminal activity against older persons, such as home break-ins, “muggings” in the street or “distraction burglary”, where a stranger distracts an older person at the doorstep while another person enters the property to steal.

The abuse of elders by caregivers is a worldwide issue. In 2002, the work of the World Health Organization brought international attention to the issue of elder abuse. Over the years, government agencies and community professional groups, worldwide, have specified elder abuse as a social problem.

In 2006 the International Network for Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA) designated June 15 as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) and an increasing number of events are held across the globe on this day to raise awareness of elder abuse, and highlight ways to challenge such abuse.

Because women tend to live longer, there are more elder women than elder men.

elder abuse ribbonIn other words, women make up a disproportionate number of the elder population. If there are any men left who still believe that women are the weaker sex, it is long past time for them to think again. With respect to that most essential proof of robustness—the power to stay alive—women are tougher than men from birth through to extreme old age.

The average man may run a 100-meter race faster than the average woman and lift heavier weights. But nowadays women outlive men by about five to six years. By age 85 there are roughly six women to every four men. At age 100 the ratio is more than two to one. And by age 122—the current world record for human longevity—the score stands at one-nil in favor of women.

So why do women live longer than men?

One idea is that men drive themselves to an early grave with all the hardship and stress of their working lives. If this were so, however, then in these days of greater gender equality, you might expect the mortality gap would vanish or at least diminish. Yet there is little evidence that this is happening. Women today still outlive men by about as much as their stay-at-home mothers outlived their office-going fathers a generation ago.

Furthermore, who truly believes that men’s work lives back then were so much more damaging to their health than women’s home lives? Just think about the stresses and strains that have always existed in the traditional roles of women: a woman’s life in a typical household can be just as hard as a man’s.

Indeed, statistically speaking, men get a much better deal out of marriage than their wives—married men tend to live many years longer than single men, whereas married women live only a little bit longer than single women.

So who actually has the easier life?

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Featured Image thanks to Adam Goldfein

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