The 7th annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) took place on June 15, 2012. The idea of a special day to keep people aware of elder abuse originated in Canada. Happily, it is now officially recognized by the United Nations.
Nine out of ten Canadians consider raising awareness of elder abuse as a high priority. No wonder – elder abuse threatens the well-being of seniors across Canada and around the world. In Canada alone, between four and ten percent of Canadian seniors experience some kind of abuse, and one in five Canadians believe they know of a senior who might be experiencing some form of abuse.
Elder abuse is prevalent in communities across Canada. It affects seniors from all walks of life, and it takes many forms, including financial, physical and psychological abuse and neglect. In fact, one doesn’t have to listen long to the news to hear of yet another case of a senior victim of abuse. And not long ago, I had a visitor to my office who talked about some of the problems here in Yorkton-Melville. The stories made me shudder.
Senior citizens who have been capable parents, grandparents and employees, are often ashamed to admit they’ve become victims. For this reason, elder abuse is often a hidden problem. But as with other types of abuse, before it can be addressed and prevented, it must be detected. WEAAD plays a key role in raising awareness to combat it.
In addition to awareness campaigns to protect seniors, the Government of Canada, through the New Horizons for Seniors Program, provides funding to organizations across Canada for projects that address elder abuse.
Despite Opposition accusations to the contrary, Canada’s senior population is both valued and esteemed by our government. We recently introduced legislation which, when passed, will help ensure consistently tough penalties for offences involving abuse of elderly persons.
The proposed legislation will amend the Criminal Code of Canada so that evidence that an offence had a significant impact on the victim due to their age (and other personal circumstances such as health or financial situation) would be considered an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes.
It’s time we worked together to defeat the problem of senior abuse. If you want to help, the first thing to do is become more aware of available resources. For that, I encourage you to visit www.seniors.gc.ca, and follow the links to Elder Abuse – It’s Time to Face the Reality. You can also order publications on elder abuse and financial abuse by calling 1 800 O Canada (1-800-622-6232).