As you likely know, 2019 marked the 20th anniversary of the National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life (NCALL), and throughout the year we hosted a blog series on our website sharing the perspectives and stories that defined NCALL’s work—past and present. Not surprisingly, a unifying thread of these blogs is how NCALL’s work with older adults has shaped us as individuals.
Since its inception, NCALL’s focus has always been keeping older survivors’ voices, experiences, challenges, and resiliency at the center of our work. For two decades, our team has been honored to meet so many incredible older adults, many of whom courageously shared their stories with us. They have informed our work, of course, but they’ve also affected our lives.
We’re ever grateful to these older survivors and the countless others who have not or cannot share their own stories. And we’re indebted to all the professionals who work every day to bring peace, safety, and justice to older adults everywhere.
Reflecting back on our first 20 years, I am incredibly proud of NCALL’s collaborative, survivor-center work, but I know there is still so much to do if we are to create a world that respects the dignity of older adults and enhances the safety and quality of life of older victims and survivors of abuse.
We all have an opportunity to make a profound difference in the lives of older survivors and to combat ageist social norms by promoting dignity, respect, and inclusion for persons of all ages.
As we close out 2019 and look forward to 2020 and beyond, I challenge you to consider what you can do—in your work, your community, your personal life—to elevate the voices of older survivors and honor the lives of older adults. Below is a short list of ideas to get you started:
Confront ageist messages. Every day, in subtle and obvious ways, older adults are marginalized and even dismissed, in our society. Respecting older adults requires us to examine and challenge our own ageist attitudes and biases in ourselves, our agencies, and systems.
Implement policies the reflect abuse across the lifespan. Involve older adults from diverse backgrounds in a meaningful way in creating, reviewing, and implementing new programs and policies. Be sure that existing policies respect the confidentiality, privacy, and autonomy of older survivors while addressing mandatory reporting.
Offer equitable services that are welcoming and accessible. Being inclusive of race, gender, disability, age, sexual orientation, and language is critical when working to elevate the voices of older survivors. Think about the individuals in your community who often go unserved or underserved, including People of Color, People with disabilities, the LGBTQ+ community, and Immigrant communities. Offering equitable services helps dismantle oppression and provides greater access to healing and justice for all older survivors.
Raise awareness through education and social justice activities. Educate yourself and others on the dynamics of abuse in later life. Increase public awareness of abuse in later life and elder abuse to heighten the visibility of older survivors and their needs. Include images of older adults and examples of abuse in later life in general education materials and presentations.
With gratitude for all that you do on behalf of older survivors, Bonnie Brandl, NCALL Director