As a global campaign focuses attention on elder abuse, a local initiative is gearing up to spread joy to thousands of senior citizens across Western New York.
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day will be commemorated on June 15 as local advocates culminate a unique outreach effort.
“We’re calling it the Caring Card Challenge, and we’re delivering hopefully 3,000 greeting cards to isolated seniors,” said Karen Nicolson, CEO for the Center for Elder Law and Justice. “And also, with those cards, we’re going to be giving them some numbers to call, some resources – all the people behind you – if they think maybe they are being victimized.”
June is Elder Awareness Month. State and Erie County representatives recently joined forces with localadvocates in hopes of taking steps to curb elder abuse.
In 2016, Erie County Adult Protective Services reported receiving 1,600 reports of elder abuse. Experts said the statistics only get more frightening from there.
“Unfortunately, the statistics show that one in 10 people over the age of 60 is the victim of some form of elder abuse,” said state Assemblywoman Monica Wallace, a Lancaster Democrat. “And for every one case that’s reported, there are about 14 cases that go unreported.”
Elder abuse can include physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and financial abuse.
A recent report from New York’s Office of Children and Family Services indicates that in a one-year-period, between $352 million to $1.5 billion worth of assets has been taken from seniors.
State Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, a Buffalo Democrat, said it’s too easy to assume that many seniors don’t need any extra care.
“I actually have a mother who is 92-years-old,” said Peoples-Stokes. “And I can’t even think about what would happen if I thought somebody was going to attempt to abuse my mother. Who’s by the way sharp as a wit. But even still, she needs to be protected, in a way that she didn’t need to be protected when she was 60 or when she was 50.”
Senior isolation is the focus of this year’s Elder Awareness Month, something Wallace said, we can all fight just by checking in.
“We can combat that isolation that has been said here earlier, by checking in on our friends and neighbors and making sure that they are ok,” said Wallace.
That’s why the Caring Cards Challenge will be put into effect this month. Some schools, offices and churches have already joined in the Challenge, and it is not too late for more people to volunteer.
People who wish to participate in the Caring Cards Challenge can find information on the Center for Elder Law and Justice’s website at elderjusticeny.org/weaad.