June 15th, 2011 marks the 6th Annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. This is an important opportunity for Americans and people around the world to recommit ourselves to ending elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
Elder abuse, like domestic violence and child abuse, is a public health crisis that crosses all socio-economic lines. Millions of older Americans are abused, neglected, or exploited each year – often by someone they know – and an estimated 84 percent of these incidents are not reported.
Elder abuse and exploitation is an issue that must be addressed. As Americans enjoy longer lives and the senior population continues to grow, abuse will likely grow with it. And, sadly, during hard economic times the prevalence of financial exploitation increases.
One way this administration is committed to fighting elder abuse is through the Elder Justice Act, which was signed into law by President Obama last year. The Elder Justice Act provides the first-ever authorization of Federal resources for adult protective services demonstrations to test the best methods of identifying, responding to, and preventing elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation. In fact, the President’s 2012 Budget proposes $16.5 million in first-time funding for this purpose.
In addition to resources, ending elder abuse is critically dependent on the partnership of government agencies, law enforcement, adult protective services professionals, health and human services providers, faith-based organizations, and business and community leaders. All of these entities play a crucial role in providing education, outreach, and support to the community, bringing offenders to justice for their crimes, and protecting and empowering victims and their loved ones. These many organizations work tirelessly to help prevent elder abuse, and throughout the year there are many observances, such as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, that allow each of us the opportunity to honor older individuals and draw attention to the problem of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
On this World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, I encourage agencies, organizations, and individuals across the world to recognize this underreported issue and raise awareness about the mistreatment of seniors. Let this be a renewal of a life-long commitment to ending elder abuse in the United States, and around the world, as we strive to create communities that safeguard and protect elders.