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Baby Boomers are reaching the age of Maturity

Elder abuse is becoming more and more prevalent especially as the baby boomers reach the age of 65 years. As the population grows so does the instances of abuse. Statistics reveal that approximately 5 million elderly people are abused each year and it is estimated that only 1 in 14 cases of abuse are reported to the authorities according to Adult Protective Services. The elderly is subjected to various forms of abuse such as physical, emotional/verbal and sexual ill-treatment. It is determined that perpetrators of abuse are usually family members. As elder abuse becomes more blatant so should the systematic responses to conquering the nationwide epidemic.

The media often spotlights abuse as a prevalent problem in society today, and often it is specific to abuse against children. There are many government and private organizations devoted to preventing child abuse and helping its’ current victims. However, this is not the only abuse occurring that merits attention. Abuse also effects a different demographic of people; the elderly. While the abuse effecting children is acknowledged, it may appear that many people are not as familiar with abuse of the elderly. Subsequently there are fewer organizations to assist. Abuse of the elderly does not discriminate as it is both genders, all cultures, all ethnicities, and all socioeconomic classes. There are three main types of elder abuse; physical, verbal/emotional, and sexual abuse. Each form of abuse has signs, rising prevalence in society, and not enough social awareness or community support. It is predicted that by 2030, when the first baby boomer reaches the mature age of 84, the number of Americans over 65 will be tripled. Essentially, more than 20 percent of the population will be over the age of 65, and as the elderly population grows, the crimes against them are expected to exponentially rise in incidence and prevalence. Elder abuse is becoming one of the fastest growing crimes in society and is also one of the most underreported and misunderstood. This is because elders do not want to report nor do they want to be a part of the process. Many elderly adults are abused in their own homes, or while they are residing in the home of relatives who are supposed to be caring from them in their time of need. As the elderly become older and weaker their ability to stand up or fight back, if attacked, becomes greatly diminished. There are indicators of physical abuse such as; unexplained broken bones, cuts, punctures, burns, bruises and welts wherein, other common indicators include, broken eye glasses with no reasonable explanation or signs of being restrained, such as marks around the wrist. Members of the community may be able to recognize these warning signs of abuse if properly educated on what to look for. This is not to state that all injuries the elderly sustain constitutes abuse. Per Adult Protective Services data the Houston district received 21,575 reported cases of abuse, neglect and/or exploitation in FY 2018 wherein of those 11,567 cases were validated for some type of maltreatment against the elderly and disabled.

As elder abuse becomes more prominent, so do the systematic responses to conquering this nationwide epidemic. The primary source of response to allegations of abuse against the elderly in Texas is Adult Protective Services. There are social service agencies with a comprehensive understanding of this growing, and prevalent problem, and much room for expansion of these services. The response to elder abuse is most effective when it is a collaborative effort by all social service agencies, criminal justice systems, health care providers and the community. The elderly population deserves to live their retirement years with dignity and there are many that cannot do it alone.

Posted by Lori A. Albee, MVSM, Adult Protective Services - Houston District on 7 May 2019