Elder abuse is a widespread issue that often flies under the radar. The Cambridge Council on Aging and Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services (SCES) would like to thank everyone who has joined with us to try and change that over the past month.
Now in its third year, our annual purple-ribbon campaign to raise elder abuse awareness delivered ribbons and educational materials to more than 1,300 people in our community over the month of June. It was our largest effort yet, and it required many hands pulling in the same direction to make it happen.
Central to the success of this year’s campaign were the many community organizations that agreed to participate—the advocates, public officials and people in the elder services community who stepped up to help us spread the word. Thanks to your efforts, more people in our community are aware of the common signs of elder abuse—and who to contact if they have concerns. Thank you again for your support.
Another key player was the Cambridge Elder Abuse Prevention Coalition, which worked with us to highlight how elder abuse has dovetailed with one of the most significant health emergencies of our generation, the opioid epidemic. Working together, we hosted a drug takeback event, which featured performances from True Story Theatre that illustrated how opioid misuse can put everything from health to housing at risk for older adults.
For those who aren’t familiar, elder abuse is defined in Massachusetts as physical, emotional, verbal or sexual abuse of a person 60 years of age or older; and it also includes caretaker abuse or neglect, financial exploitation, or self-neglect.
Roughly one in 10 older adults experience some form of elder abuse, but by most estimates only one out of every 14 cases are reported to the authorities. The Executive Office of Elder Affairs reports that there were 24,978 elder abuse reports in 2015. In that same year, 420 reports of abuse in Cambridge and Somerville were investigated by the Adult Protective Services program at SCES.
Elder abuse is here in our community. But so too are many advocates and people who want to help. Together, we can make a difference.
Thank you again for your support.
Susan Pacheco is the Executive Director of the Cambridge Council on Aging. Norah Al-Wetaid is a Senior Protective Services Caseworker at Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services. To learn more about elder abuse, visit the SCES Adult Protective Services page at eldercare.org. To report elder abuse, call the Massachusetts-based Elder Abuse Hotline at 1-800-922-2275.