As citizens, we are neighbours, friends, family members, and co-workers.
LEARN 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.
FIND OUT: Does your municipal government identify elder abuse as a priority issue?
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What are the strengths and gaps in elder abuse research to build upon and expand?
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.
Elder abuse does not exist in a vacuum; nor does research. Consider areas of shared concern, commonality, and bridge-building across the research lifecycle.
The actions for communities are written for different types of communities, including municipalities. More ideas for governments follow.
Any type of community can:
What Is Community Anyway? (ssir.org)
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.
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.
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: