Since its inception in 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is recognized each year on June 15th. The theme for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) is Lifting Up Voices.
Sadly, every year an estimated five million older Americans are victims of elder abuse, neglect, bullying, or exploitation, and that’s only part of the picture. Experts believe that for every case of elder abuse or neglect reported, as many as 23 cases go unreported.
It important to observe WEAAD each year as no community in the world is immune from the mistreatment of older adults. In Missouri alone during fiscal year 2019, the Department of Health and Senior Services received and investigated 39,144 reports of abuse, neglect, bullying, and exploitation, involving seniors and adults with disabilities living in the community and in long term care facilities. That amounts to an average of over 107 reports every day. The number of cases continues to rise, but these numbers still vastly understate the extent of the problem because the victim often has an emotional bond with the perpetrator. Seniors and people with disabilities may also be socially isolated and often times are physically dependent on the perpetrator, making it a complex situation to report for fear of losing their last vestige of independence. The current recommendations for social distancing can prove to be exponentially problematic for older adults and individuals with disabilities to avoid or report abuse and neglect.
WEAAD serves as a call-to-action for individuals, organizations, and communities to raise awareness about elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.