The International Association for Indigenous Aging (IA²) joins elder advocates worldwide in acknowledging World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD).
Bringing more than 20 years of experience advocating for the well-being of American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) elders, IA² joins others internationally in acknowledging and advocating for the well-being and protection of the treasured knowledge keepers in our communities.
WEAAD was launched on June 15, 2006, by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization.
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day offers an opportunity to bring awareness to elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation in our communities. It also affords the chance to renew the call for policies, programs, and resources to help eliminate this epidemic facing tribal and other Indigenous elders.
Elder abuse comes with a tremendous physical, emotional, and financial toll. This includes the significant personal and community impacts up to and including early death for victims. In a 2019 study, IA² Senior Project Director Dr. Jolie Crowder found that approximately 33% of American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) older adults had experienced abuse in the past year and 24.7% had experienced emotional abuse since the age of 60. We know most cases go unreported.
“People living at the intersection of dementia and abuse are the most vulnerable of our elders,” said Dr. Crowder. The scant existing data indicates those elders experience abuse rates as high as nearly 80%. “The stigma and cultural taboos surrounding both dementia and abuse, as separate issues, leave both caregivers and elders hidden behind closed doors. Elders are unprotected, caregivers are exhausted, and both struggle under the weight of this diagnosis and its impact,” notes Crowder.
According to IA² President and Board Chairman William F. Benson, “We recognize the exceptional challenges facing Indigenous elder populations in the U.S. and worldwide. Many of them must cope with the lack or absence of elder services, organizations that advocate for them, or the disinterest/neglect of their government’s agencies. Sadly, in far too many places around the world, Indigenous elders and their families are confronted with many horrors like war and other conflicts, starvation, and the unrelenting effects of climate change.”
We believe that by working together, we can tackle the horror of elder abuse. This begins by acknowledging it, particularly within family and community structures. “Building awareness of the devastating impact of abuse is an important first step. We must also place a priority on resources and funding to prevent and address elder abuse,” Benson emphasizes.
“As we continue to work for the well-being of AIAN elders, we remain mindful of the struggles faced by elders of other nations and geographies. Our struggle for better elder care—both here in the U.S. and abroad—closely aligns with international efforts to recognize and prevent elder abuse worldwide,” says Dave Baldridge, IA² Executive Director.
- Learn about the role of culture in elder abuse and how health professionals can get involved from the National Indian Council on Aging.
- Learn about elder abuse and warning signs at the National Indigenous Elder Justice Initiative.
- View this video about the experiences of Alaska Older Adults experiences during COVID-19.
- Encourage your tribal leadership to issue a WEAAD Proclamation.
- Participate in a WEAAD event or create your own.
- Spread the word throughout the day on social media with graphics from NCEA.
- Read the past blog series IA² coordinated for NCEA about
- Keep the effort going by considering long-term actions and steps identified in this IA² report you can take in your tribal community to combat elder abuse today and every day.
- Contact Adult Protective Services or tribal law enforcement if you suspect elder abuse. If it is an emergency, call 911.