How do you want to live your life when you grow older?

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day seeks to raise awareness of what qualifies as abuse and how to deal with it.

By Stephanie Melnyk, Coordinator, Community Response Network

Imagine you are a happy, healthy parent with school-aged kids.  Your life is very busy caring for your family, looking after your home, going to work and finding time to go biking or have a coffee with a friend.

Now imagine 30 or 40 years have passed.  You finally have the time to do all the things you wanted but now need help to enjoy your life fully. Your kids are adults and living lives of their own, your spouse has passed away and you have had some health issues. Taking care of your home, large shopping trips and travelling require help from others.

It’s no surprise that as we age, we require more support in order to live our lives in the way that we want. As a result, we become more dependent on others, which increases our risk for abuse. The word ‘abuse’ brings to mind the most serious examples, but something as common as being an adult who is told what to do against their will still constitutes abuse.

“Older adults in our communities continue to find themselves in vulnerable situations and experience various forms of abuse and neglect,” says Sherry Baker, Executive Director of the BC Association of Community Response Networks. According to the Ministry of Health, up to 10 per cent of seniors in B.C. will experience some form of physical, emotional, financial or sexual abuse. It is believed that this statistic is actually higher since the abuse of seniors is significantly under reported.

The problem is not unique to British Columbia or to Canada. In 2006, the United Nations officially proclaimed June 15 as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. It is well-recognized that the abuse of older adults is a multi-dimensional problem. It is an issue of family violence, an intergenerational concern, a health problem, a justice problem and a human rights issue.

According to the United Nations, “the world needs a global response to the problem. One that focuses on protecting the rights of older adults.” Accordingly, Community Response Networks (CRNs) across B.C. are focusing on the rights of older people, including the right to dignity, privacy, freedom and the pursuit of happiness in old age.

The Revelstoke CRN has been working to end abuse and neglect of all adults, not just of seniors, since 2004. We are encouraging the community to recognize this year’s World Elder Abuse Awareness Day by asking “How do I want to be treated as I age?”  Then, ask the same of older adults in your life and work with them to make it a reality.

For more information about World Elder Abuse Awareness Day or the BC Association of CRNs, visit www.bccrns.ca or contact Interior Health at 250-837-2131 x204.  If you have any questions for the Revelstoke CRN, email revycrn@gmail.com.