About World Elder Abuse Awareness Day
While there is no singular definition for elder abuse—some are based on age, vulnerability, or determined by state statutes or tribal codes—one definition, created by the field for the field, states that elder abuse is “abuse, neglect, abandonment, or financial exploitation of an older individual by another person or entity who has a trust-based relationship with the older adult or, any harm that occurs because an older person is targeted by a stranger based on their age or disability.”
It is estimated that up to five million older Americans are abused every year, and the annual loss by victims of financial abuse is estimated to be at least $36.5 billion. According to the United Nations, between 2019 and 2030, the number of persons aged 60 years or over is projected to grow by 38%, from 1 billion to 1.4 billion, globally outnumbering youth. This increase will be the greatest and the most rapid in the developing world, and recognizing that, greater attention needs to be paid to the specific challenges affecting older persons, including in the field of human rights.
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD), launched on June 15, 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations, aims to create an opportunity for communities around the world to promote a better understanding of the abuse and neglect of older persons by raising awareness of the cultural, social, economic, and demographic circumstances affecting elder abuse and neglect.
Every day, in subtle and obvious ways, older adults are marginalized and even dismissed in our society. We see it in statements like “over the hill” or “I’m having a senior moment.” It’s in our actions, when we automatically talk louder or in simplistic terms to an older person or talk about that person in front of them instead of addressing them directly. And it’s in our attitudes when we view older people as diminished or incompetent or that being young is good but being old is sad.
Ageism blinds us to the benefits and strengths of aging and increases our fears of growing older. Worse yet, ageism also creates a culture that ignores and tolerates elder abuse and allows the abuse of older adults to continue.
This year, we’ve seen a noticeable shift in the anti-ageism movement led, in part, by the World Health Organization’s stunning Global Campaign to Combat Ageism along with the important findings in Global Report on Ageism, which identifies ageism as a universal barrier to everyone’s health, safety, dignity, and well-being. Ageism can have devastating effects on one’s mental and physical health. Like other forms of discrimination, it creates inequities among groups.
This campaign, End Ageism | End Abuse, doesn’t assume that by ending ageism we will end abuse. Rather, it is a call to action: to end ageism and end abuse we must work together to disrupt and dismantle ageism, which affects us all and is foundational to elder abuse.