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Older Adult Support for Elder Abuse Victims


By Deborah Cox-Roush, National Director, Senior Corps Corporation for National and Community Service

There is rising awareness that the number and complexity of abuses against the elderly is growing significantly. Whether they’re the victims of financial abuse or mistreatment at the hands of family members, strangers, or professionals, we know that older adults who have been exploited find it difficult to regain their sense of trust and security.

This grim reality leaves us wondering how does one really help prevent, and hopefully end, the victimization of these vulnerable citizens? I strongly recommend engaging the services of Senior Corps volunteers serving across the nation.

Our volunteers are well-established within their communities and provide a variety of tangible and intangible impact and benefits to the places they call home. With a network of more than 200,000 volunteers age 55 and over throughout the country, Senior Corps programs — Foster Grandparent– Senior Companion and RSVP — are uniquely positioned to raise educational awareness that helps prevent elder abuse and provide interventions that reduce isolation, which is often how many become vulnerable.

Senior Corps volunteers are trusted neighbors and peers who are in a position to recognize warning signs in time to prevent abuse and/or neglect. 

I hope you are now thinking about utilizing Senior Corps volunteers for your elder abuse efforts. If not, allow me to suggest a few ways that these volunteers can help.

  • Public awareness: Volunteers are trained to make abuse-prevention presentations to local organizations, peer groups, and other events.
  • Social support:  Senior Corps volunteers provide respite for overburdened caregivers and can help connect older adults and their families to useful social service resources. They also conduct safety checks on those with few family members and friends to assess situations and identify those who may be at high risk for abuse and scams.
  • Intake Officers:  Serving in the offices of State Attorney Generals, providing one on one assessments to seniors who may be potential victims of fraud and abuse. This peer to peer interaction provides a level of trust in reporting.
  • Financial literacy:  Senior Corps volunteers are trained to present curriculums that help teach adults financial literacy and how to manage someone else’s money.
  • Victim Support:  Senior Corps volunteers can help victims apply for social benefits, staff consumer hotlines, and help conduct initial investigations that often help lead to resolution or restitution.
  • Ombudsmen:  Senior Corps volunteers can be trained and certified to serve as ombudsmen to help ensure that nursing home residents receive proper care.   

You may wonder how I know so much about these programs and why I’m suggesting that you engage them.  Well, during the past three years I have been the proud National Senior Corps Director and have seen, up close, how the services these volunteers provide communities changes lives. I also believe that we have just scratched the surface of what seniors can achieve.

With a growing older adult population, I am confident that more models of older adult engagement can be developed to support elder justice activities. I’m eager to hear your ideas about innovative programming utilizing older adults to support this issue in new ways. 

Please share them with me at SeniorCorps@cns.gov.

Deborah Cox-Roush (Debbie) was appointed by President Donald Trump as Director of Senior Corps for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).  As Director of Senior Corps, Ms. Cox-Roush leads the Foster Grandparent, Senior Companion and RSVP programs that, together, engage over 200,000 Americans age 55 and over in volunteer service that meets pressing needs in communities across the nation. 

Debbie brings more than 30 years of high-level professional experience in management, advocacy, and volunteer coordination.  She has a long history of involvement with community, nonprofit, and philanthropic causes related to women, economic empowerment, small business development, and job creation.  Before joining Senior Corps, she served as Special Assistant to the Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education.

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Special Thanks to Judith D. Tamkin

We are sincerely appreciative to Judith D. Tamkin for her gift to help establish the USC Center on Elder Mistreatment’s website. Her deep and personal commitment to eradicating elder abuse is helping to reshape our understanding of elder abuse and ultimately save innumerable older adults from abuse and neglect.