2023 WEAAD and Elder Abuse Networks 

By Georgia J. Anetzberger, PhD, ACSW 

June 5, 2023

There are people who collect quotations, and I am one of them, with multiple books on the subject and my own journal going back decades. One of my favorite quotations captures the fundamental message of this blog: “There are no great men—only great committees” (from the book The Age of Uncertainty by the late Harvard University economist and public official John Kenneth Galbraith). Essentially this quotation suggests that we have more opportunity for achievement by working with others than we ever have by working alone. 

In the spirit of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD), there is perhaps no better reflection of this perspective than elder abuse networks (sometimes called coalitions, councils, or consortiums). These are collaboratives or partnerships across systems and disciplines at local and state levels formed to promote improvement in abuse detection, prevention, and response. The oldest ones (still functioning today) began in the early 1980s, and new ones are being formed as this blog goes to press. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has mapped hundreds of networks nationwide (nearly all at the local or regional level), and the National Network of State Elder Justice Coalitions has sixteen members, representing the fifteen states currently with networks at that level.  

Although elder abuse networks may have varied functions, all are engaged in raising awareness about the problem, either directly through specific network activities or indirectly through those of their members. As such, they are helping to fulfill the purpose of WEAAD, namely to advance public and professional understanding about elder abuse and encourage cooperative action to address the problem, which affects older people worldwide, including here in the United States in every one of our states and communities. 

Raising awareness by networks is accomplished in multiple ways, from billboards and posters to presentations and publications. Although often a year-around activity, it tends to culminate into something special around WEAAD. For example, this year several state networks (such as those in Minnesota and Montana) are holding conferences, anticipating well over a thousand attendees collectively. Trauma is a frequent theme, whether as experienced by victims (Ohio) or their first responders (Michigan). Elsewhere activities are diverse, such as in New York where purple lights will illuminate bridges and pinwheels will be given to counties, symbolizing the scope of abuse experienced by their older adult residents. 

None of these raising awareness activities could be achieved by any one person working alone. Rather, they require many people working together. I believe that they are best done by elder abuse networks, with their large number of involved persons, representing diverse disciplines, organizations, and systems offering collective creativity, messaging, and support. Nothing succeeds in this regard like networks. Raising awareness about elder abuse is part of their mission, and they are passionate to make it happen.