IntroductionExecutive SummarySection 1Section 2Section 3Section 4Section 5

Section 3

How you can contribute

A Differentiated Approach: Roles and Opportunities to Engage

To become engaged, people need a vision with clear ideas for the different roles they can play. In this section we will explore a variety of roles and opportunities for contribution. They include:

What can citizens do as supporters?

As citizens, we are neighbours, friends, family members, and co-workers.

to recognize warning signs of elder abuse, how to respond safely, effectively, and supportively when you are concerned about an older person. Find out where to refer to available services and supports.

RECOGNIZE – RESPOND – REFER is the foundational knowledge that everyone needs to have. Social change theory suggests that with complex issues, teaching everyone two or three basic skills that allow a person to engage in the issue when they encounter it in daily life can fundamentally change things.

PERSIST: There are so many people who care about the safety and well-being of older people working toward a more equitable society. Individual efforts belong to the big picture of Canada and this diverse engaged community that spans the country. Even if you can’t see progress, keep the focus on doing what you can to support the common goals. Stay the course. You are not alone.

What can citizens do as advocates?

FIND OUT: Does your municipal government identify elder abuse as a priority issue?

  • If yes, congratulations, this is the first destination point of the journey achieved in your community. Click here and check that your community is on the map. Next steps will involve finding out how your municipal government takes action to address the issue.
  • If no, then find others in your community to figure out how to work toward the goal. Check if there is a local elder abuse network. Set a goal and a deadline to name elder abuse as a community issue that is recognized by your local government.
  • Age-Friendly communities are doing important work that can be aligned with this goal. Find out if the Age-Friendly mandate in your community also includes elder abuse. If not, propose it. Start the conversation about ageism and elder abuse in your community.

ENGAGE elected officials in their home communities. Ask them to support this strategy and to use their power and influence to support Future Us goals. Ask them to engage their political party. Emphasize the need to do prevention work.

  • Make elder abuse an election issue. Ask candidates to name elder abuse as a priority issue. Ask for their help to achieve the goal.
  • Hold an all-candidates meeting with a focus on ageism and elder abuse.
  • See the Future Us toolkit

BE RELENTLESS in your expectation that local elected politicians, from all parties and all levels of government, will act to support the health and safety of older people.


Support yourself as a citizen-advocate - join with others

  • Join your local elder abuse network – start one if there isn’t one in your community.
  • Connect with your regional elder abuse prevention network (existing in BC, AB, NWT, MB, ON, NFLD, as of 2022)
  • Join the Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse – stay in touch, tell us what you are doing, building, overcoming, achieving.
  • Connect with an advocacy organization such as CanAge.

What can organizations do?

Many organizations in all sectors are already working toward greater equity and have prioritized the need to root out all forms of discrimination in the organization’s operations, policies and procedures. Ageism and elder abuse should be included in education, professional development and policy review.

There is also federal and regional legislation that identifies workplace violence and harassment as workplace hazards. Stereotypes about older adults may create barriers to recognizing warning signs of harassment, violence, or discrimination that older staff may be experiencing. Employers are responsible to protect the safety of all workers.

Any organization that interacts with the public should be trained to recognize warning signs of elder abuse and to know what to do when they become aware of potential situations. National and regional elder abuse networks are a great resource to ask about available training.


Policy: Manitoba’s Credit Union Central of Manitoba (CUCM) made training on financial abuse a mandatory training for all staff.

Practice: Manitoba’s CUCM and Prevent Elder Abuse Manitoba (PEAM) collaborated to develop an award-winning online training course on financial abuse of older people by family, friends or caregivers. Available through CUSOURCE, the Canadian Credit Union Association offers the training to credit unions across Canada. Over 4,000 credit union employees have taken the course since 2014.

If you are an employer / leader:

  • Organize an It’s Not Right! Presentation/workshop to educate staff on elder abuse and to open a dialogue in your organization about ageism.
  • Provide professional development on ageism and elder abuse to prepare staff to recognize warnings signs and to know how to respond when:
  • the victim / offender is a co-worker
  • working with clients / the public
  • Include age and ageism in diversity and inclusion policies, human resources, and employee engagement programs.
  • Develop elder abuse and privacy policies to provide staff and volunteers with guidance on how to respond to concerns about adults who may be being abused.
  • Increase/Practice equity as an organization
  • Commit to becoming trauma -and violence- informed (TVI), using principles that can mitigate harms of systemic ageism and other forms of discrimination.
Group of people standing together, hands in the middle in a sign of teamwork


  • CanAge’s Policy Book VOICES, recommendations for organizations.
  • DVatWork provides online training and tools for Canadian employers to address workplace domestic violence. The website is funded by the Government of Canada.

If you are a professional working with seniors in any capacity:

  • Learn to recognize, respond and refer to warning signs and indications of increasing risk of abuse or neglect.
  • Apply TVI principles in your policy and practice.
  • Include age and ageism in diversity and inclusion policies, human resources, and employee engagement programs.
  • Learn about ageism as a form of structural violence that can cause unintentional harm by individuals and organizations.
  • Find out if your regulatory body or College has policies related to elder abuse response, including policies regarding privacy and confidentiality of information.


Practice example: Public Health Agency of Canada

Address inequity by becoming trauma -and violence- informed (TVI). Implementation of TVI principles at the organizational level has potential to build bridges across sectors in a way that can transcend and unify disciplines and mandates, enhancing community coordination.

TVI is a Canadian innovation that builds on earlier trauma-informed work developed in the US.

What can researchers do?

Research provides the evidence we need to guide policy and action. We need a strong commitment to progressive research with a gender-based and intersectional lens to keep up with the needs of a diverse and aging population.

Suggested Principles for Elder Abuse Research in Canada

1. Recognize Expertise

Historically, academically trained researchers, legal professionals, as well as service providers have been considered experts in the field of elder abuse research. Conventional understandings of expertise in recent years have expanded to embrace different ways of knowing, in the sense that all knowledge is situated knowledge. A more expansive understanding of “expertise” includes lived experiences and diverse professional backgrounds that can be included to develop, pursue, and mobilize elder abuse research.

2. Pay Attention to Systemic and Structural Issues

Researchers can advance gender-based and intersectional analyses to help us understand how policies and social norms create disparity across groups of older people. Strong critical analysis can facilitate understanding of ageism as a form of systemic violence that shapes the individual experience of elder abuse in diverse populations. Examining structural issues de-individualizes elder abuse and helps create understanding of underlying causes and promising solutions.

3. Engage community, Build Capacity

“Nothing about us without us”: the concept that no policy or research should be decided upon without the participation and direction of those whom it involves and affects. Researchers can advance community-engaged and led research that builds capacity, meets community needs, and builds on existing knowledge.

4. Appreciate Distinct Experiences

Appreciating distinct experiences entails both the involvement of historically underrepresented groups in research, as researchers and participants, and a continued reflexive and intersectional approach to research design and analysis. Project designs need to build in ongoing reflection with respect to participant positionality and how power is used and shared in the group.


Promising Practices for Housing Women who are Older and Fleeing Violence or Abuse (Atira Women’s Resources Society Report – Canadian Centre for Elder Law)


Centering Indigenous Leadership in the Sustainability Development Goals (Peterborough, Ontario) profiled in Tamarack’s A Guide for Advancing the Sustainable Development Goals in Your Community.

Pathways to Consider

Pathway 1: Topical

What are the strengths and gaps in elder abuse research to build upon and expand?

Pathway 2: Resources

Research requires funding. Directing resources towards community-engaged, intersectoral, and multi-year projects will enhance the state of knowledge on elder abuse as well as knowledge-mobilization and intervention efforts.

Pathway 3: Coalition Building

Elder abuse does not exist in a vacuum; nor does research. Consider areas of shared concern, commonality, and bridge-building across the research lifecycle.

What can communities do?

The actions for communities are written for different types of communities, including municipalities. More ideas for governments follow.

Any type of community can:

  • Take time to learn about ageism and elder abuse as a group.
  • Engage members of the community in talking about the experience of older people and how ageism and elder abuse is impacting your community.
  • Host intergenerational events that bring people of all ages together to build relationships between the generations, and to talk about the health and well-being of the community through an age lens.
  • Engage the local government and elected officials in dialogue about the importance of addressing ageism and elder abuse. Inform them what it means for your community and what steps your group is taking to address the issues.
  • Implement these actions using TVI informed principles set out by the Public Health Agency of Canada as steps to increasing equity as a community.

What Is Community Anyway? (

A community is not a place, a building, or an organization; nor is it an exchange of information over the Internet. Community is both a feeling and a set of relationships among people. People form and maintain communities to meet common needs.

Most of us participate in multiple communities within a given day. Communities often sit within other communities. For example, in a city, in a neighborhood—a community in and of itself—there may be ethnic or racial communities, communities based on people of different ages and with different needs, and communities based on common economic interests.

Communities form institutions—what we usually think of as large organizations and systems such as schools, government, faith, law enforcement, or the nonprofit sector. Equally important are communities’ informal institutions, such as the social or cultural networks of helpers and leaders.

Convene community dialogues to engage people in the issues and gather collective input: Learn how elder abuse manifests in high and low-income communities, Indigenous and diverse communities, disability groups, in different faith communities, in rural and in urban communities. What are the unique needs? What is the common ground? What is needed to address barriers to accessing support? Communities have deep self-knowledge and when engaged in meaningful ways, can be empowered to act collectively in the interests of all citizens.

The Age-Friendly movement is an excellent example of work that is already happening in many communities. It could be expanded and aligned to include elder abuse and to increase the support for older people who may be experiencing abuse or neglect.


The Tamarack Institute has twenty years of Canadian experience in supporting large-scale social change through community engagement to achieve collective impact on a variety of issues. While they are not working (yet) on ageism specifically, there are many useful resources that can ignite your imagination and support the actions recommended in this roadmap.

For example, Tamarack has developed a guide for communities that are working to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. City officials and civil society leaders in many parts of Canada are using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework for local priorities. SDGs include ending poverty, addressing gender-based violence and increasing equity.

What can governments do?

Recognize ageism as an equity issue. Locate ageism in a larger context. People of all ages need an income above the poverty line, affordable housing, secure food, quality healthcare, safety and support with human rights observed and protected on a healthy planet. Until we address the fundamental inequities at a societal level, we will be dealing with the cascade effect of trauma and violence that results from ongoing poverty, discrimination, and colonization.

We cannot afford to live in a society in which only some people matter. What we tell ourselves about others is both a reflection of the values of our current society, the community in which we have grown up, and the ways in which we have internalized and uphold those values. We need equity and unwavering respect for life to guide us in all aspects of working for positive social change. We need the different levels of government, both bureaucrats and politicians, engaged in social change as partners.

Invest in the elder abuse infrastructure:

Federal Government

  • Endorse Future Us to support the pan-Canadian evolution of ideas, information, and innovations.
  • Fund CNPEA with annualized funding. Incent provincial-territorial governments to establish networks.

Provincial/territorial governments:

  • Establish / sustain provincial-territorial networks to ensure ongoing regional connection with local communities and to plug into the Canadian network as partners.
  • Incent municipalities to establish local elder abuse prevention networks.

Municipal government:

  • Establish / sustain local elder abuse prevention networks to build relationships, convene and connect multi-sectors, learn to manage risk as a community, ensure engagement of diverse communities.

Further actions:

  • Develop national multimedia campaigns on elder abuse and ageism, similar to the 2022 Dementia Awareness Campaign.
  • Educate public servants in all departments on elder abuse and ageism.
  • Engage regional and local networks to provide the training.
  • Convene and host community dialogues to educate and engage citizens.
  • Provide funding for diverse groups to convene themselves. Build community processes to gather input that can help develop actions to address the specific issues identified.
  • Implement these actions using trauma -and violence- informed principles set out by the Public Health Agency of Canada as steps to increase equity as a country.

If you are a politician or bureaucrat:

Ageism, abuse and neglect of older adults are non-partisan issues. All political parties and government departments are citizens with a stake in our collective future:

  • Politicians can educate themselves on the issues in their home ridings:
  • engage in dialogue with older people, local experts and advocates
  • develop an appreciation for on-the-ground pressures to provide service to older people who are experiencing violence and abuse.
  • Politicians can engage their party in advancing the Future Us strategy.
  • Politicians can insist that guidance from experts and research is sought out prior to developing elder abuse policy.
  • Politicians can include the perspectives of older people in developing elder abuse policy.
  • Bureaucrats can educate themselves on ageism and elder abuse issues as citizens and as public servants in positions to inform elected politicians.
  • Politicians and bureaucrats can engage with community leaders and advocates to build relationships that support greater collaboration and coordination.

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