Each year, an estimated 5 million older adults are abused, neglected, or exploited. Today is known as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, which is intended to inform communities and individuals about the scope of elder abuse and educate them about how to prevent it.
On this day, communities around the world renew the commitment to preserving the rights of older adults, including the basic human right to live with dignity, free from abuse and neglect. The designation for the day was created in 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations, according to the Administration for Community Living website.
Abuse can take many forms. For example, older Americans lose an estimated $2.6 billion or more annually because of financial abuse and exploitation, losing funds that could be used to pay for basic needs such as housing, food, and medical care. Unfortunately, this abuse occurs in every demographic and can happen to anyone, including family members, friends, and neighbors. It is estimated that only one in five of these crimes are discovered, the website states.
Here are five steps from the National Center on Elder Abuse that everyone can do to build community support and prevent elder abuse:
- Learn the signs of elder abuse and how groups can solve the issue together.
- Prevent isolation. Call or visit older loved ones and ask how they are doing on a regular basis.
- Talk to friends and family members about how all people can age well, and discuss how to reduce abuse with programs and services from law enforcement, community centers, and public transportation.
- Sign up to be a friendly visitor to an older person in your community.
- Send a letter to a local newspaper or radio or TV station suggesting coverage of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day or Grandparents Day in September.
Older citizens also may be victimized by fraud and scams. Here are some scams that target senior citizens, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services:
- IRS phone scam – A scammer posing as an Internal Revenue Service agent calls unsuspecting seniors, claims that they owe money, and threatens a lawsuit. The IRS will never call to inform you of a pending suit.
- Medicare fraud – Someone may pose as a Medicare representative to get seniors to provide their personal information, which is used by the scammer to bill Medicare and pocket the money.
- Tax fraud – A criminal files taxes using a stolen Social Security or employee ID number to collect a victim’s tax return.
- Internet fraud – Pop-up browser windows simulating virus-scanning software will fool victims into either downloading a fake anti-virus program or an actual virus that may gain access to personal information saved on their computer.
- Grandparent scheme – Scammers pose as the victim’s grandchild and describe a dire financial situation and give instructions on how and where the grandparent should send money.