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The Next Generation of Elder Justice Advocates 


By Christine Lee, Nicole Leon, and Elizabeth Esquivel, National Center on Elder Abuse & USC Lenord Davis School of Gerontology

Preventing elder abuse and building strong supports for older adults of today and tomorrow necessitates an intergenerational approach. Through a partnership with the USC Lenord Davis School of Gerontology, the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) hosts student interns who recognize the power of intergenerational solidarity, understanding, and support needed to create a society free from elder abuse. At the NCEA, we have been fortunate to have a fantastic set of interns who have helped us further our mission of improving the national response to elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Hear from our interns as they reflect on their internship experiences and how they will carry them to their future endeavors.  

Christine Lee

“As anyone involved in gerontology, I advocate for elder justice and the prevention of elder abuse. But interning at NCEA challenged me to rethink how I approached elder abuse. Through the reframing training offered by NCEA, I realized my previously unknown biases that attenuated my efforts in pursuing elder justice. Rather than using paternalistic or victim-blaming language, NCEA encouraged me to frame the awareness and prevention of elder abuse as what it really is: justice. By understanding that we are part of a bigger movement towards societal justice, I realized that this effort is in part reflected by how I speak and write about older adults and elder abuse. And through this experience, I also encourage my peers to rethink how they advocate for older adults. Elder abuse does not happen apart from society; rather, older adults are a valuable part of our society, and we must put into place structures and institutions that will allow every member of our society to thrive. I look forward to using this new perspective in my future endeavors within the medical field!” – Christine Lee  

Nicole Leon

“One of the things that drew me to the field of Gerontology was the sheer lack of awareness of and attention to issues faced by older adults. The NCEA’s work as a resource center crucially provides easily understandable information to people of all ages, capabilities, and backgrounds. As an intern, it has been incredibly rewarding to take part in creating and disseminating media. 

By far, my favorite activities at the NCEA have been getting to know the staff members and bill tracking. There is something reassuring and empowering about being surrounded (virtually) by such passionate and focused individuals, who are also so willing to help me develop my professional self. Similarly, tracking legislation in California, for usage in the NCEA’s Elder Justice Policy Highlights, paints a story of on-going efforts across the state by policy makers and organizations to improve the lives of older adults. It has become increasingly apparent to me that preventing elder abuse and creating age-friendly societies requires educating younger generations on the benefits and importance of intergenerational solidarity – not only for older adults of today, but for people of all ages. Doing so would create more informed citizens, voters, and advocates for change.” – Nicole Leon 

Elizabeth Esquivel 

“I was drawn to the NCEA because of all the amazing things I had previously heard, from the people who worked there to the work they do. I first learned about the NCEA through my brother, a past NCEA volunteer. He always mentioned how proud he was to be a part of a Center that was so caring of their team, not to mention a Center that is dedicated to preventing elder mistreatment. I never really knew what he meant or felt by that, that is, until joining the team myself. When I began my internship at the NCEA at the beginning of this year, I was excited but also a little nervous that I’d not only be working for a Center as valued as the NCEA, but also alongside the people who my brother has talked so highly about for years. 

Nonetheless, the NCEA welcomed me with open arms and showed me what my brother had been talking about. The NCEA really is one big, happy, loving, caring family, that not only looks out for each other, but also cares deeply for the older adults in our country. The NCEA works hard every day to improve the national response to elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation. They do so by ensuring that education, research, and policy are properly gathered, stimulated, and disseminated. Like my brother and interns before me, I am proud to have been a small contribution to what makes the NCEA so special.” – Elizabeth Esquivel 

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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.