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The Solution to Elder Abuse


By Kerry Burnight, PhD, CEO, Ageless Alliance & Clinical Professor, Family Medicine, UCI School of Medicine

Dr. Kerry Burnight
photo : Steve Zylius/UC Irvine Communications

Ever looked for your glasses only to find them perched up on your head?

After years and years of seeking solutions to elder abuse, I recently realized it was there all along. The solution to elder abuse was standing there right in front of me.  And his name was Harry.

When we met, Harry was 87. He was fiercely independent, resilient and relentless in his drive to improve his own life and the lives of others. He knew personally the pain and harm of elder abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation. Harry found his way out of the abuse with the help of volunteers from the nonprofit, Ageless Alliance.

After Harry was out of danger, he became a tireless volunteer for Ageless Alliance. As a volunteer he spoke in schools about serving as a Green Beret and about elder justice. Harry created the organization’s collateral materials using his proficiency in calligraphy. Harry offered to be a spokesperson for the cause and made the 45 second video below. As you can see, his life was filled with substance, meaning and value.

See the glasses on our head? The solution to elder abuse is Harry.  The solution to elder abuse is Harry, and Jane, and Norma and Tom and YOU. The solution to elder abuse is all of us willing to use what we have towards the cause.  Working together we can…

Click on the image below to see Harry’s powerful video.

To join the movement and become a part of Ageless Alliance’s grassroots community read more.

-Kerry Burnight, PhD

At the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), we meet many heroes like Harry.  We love sharing their stories.  As World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) quickly approaches on June 15, 2016, we want to know what you are doing. Do you have a photo that exemplifies the solution through the action that YOU and your networks are taking?  If so, the Administration for Community Living (ACL) wants to hear from you–in fact– they’ll even be collecting photos to share.  Submit photos here: WEAADpics@acl.hhs.gov

Or, you may wonder how YOU can be a part of the solution to preventing elder abuse.  Here are a few suggestions:

•         Combat isolation: Take the time out of your busy schedules to connect with an older relative or make friends with an older adult through a local volunteer program.

•         Education is a powerful tool: Spread awareness by banding together with others to host presentations and inform older adults and their loved ones that elder abuse does exist in our communities. Show them the statistics, highlight the red flags!

•         Sponsor and publicize a WEAAD event: Raise public awareness and consider hosting your own event. All the resources that you need are accessible in our toolkit and have been conveniently designed with YOU in mind.

•        Keep your elected representatives informed:  As government officials on local, state and federal levels, they need to know that elder abuse exists. Knowing that YOU care about programs and systems that support victims and/or survivors and the professionals who serve them makes all the difference. They have the power to take actions such as passing legislation, implementing regulatory measures and aligning funding priorities with the best interests of citizens.

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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.