By County Executive Ed Day
Our county, state and nation are facing a wave of unreported crimes against some of our most vulnerable citizens. Approximately 1 in 10 Americans aged 60 and over have experienced some form of elder abuse. Some estimates range as high as 5 million elders who are abused each year. One study estimated that only 1 in 14 cases of abuse are even reported to authorities.
These statistics are especially distressing because between now and 2050, the United States will experience considerable growth in its older population. In 2050, the population aged 65 and over is projected to be 83.7 million, almost double its estimated population of 43.1 million back in 2012.
Seniors are a rapidly growing population; I’m about to turn 67 in August so I understand what they are going through. That’s why we must combat and raise awareness of elder abuse to ensure security and dignity for all our seniors.
I have seen many instances of crime during my nearly 25 years in law enforcement. I have seen elderly people being victimized, and it’s something that is extremely difficult to talk about. It hurts, it is painful to dwell on these things. I have seen the tears, the pain, the looks of helplessness in people’s faces. The look is always the same regardless of the type of crime.
We know that elder abuse can take many forms. Physical abuse, emotional abuse, financial abuse and outright neglect. And the truly difficult part to bear is that many of these abuses are carried out by those closest to seniors. In almost 60% of elder abuse and neglect incidents, the perpetrator is a family member.
That is just one of the factors that leads to these crimes so often going unreported. Shame and embarrassment play a role as well but all of these crimes involve taking advantage of an older person who probably has limited ability to fight back.
Last Friday was World Elder Abuse Awareness Day and I had the opportunity to speak at a forum hosted by the Rockland County Office for the Aging. One topic I spoke about was the need to be on the look-out for these crimes and work together towards ways to prevent them. One of the key ways to protect yourself is to stay involved, stay active in the community and connected with friends and family. This will decrease social isolation, which has been connected to elder abuse.
Many seniors have spent most of their lives working, saving, and sacrificing so that they could enjoy a secure retirement. Criminals are taking that away in a matter of minutes. My best advice to you is this, seek independent advice before you sign anything, hang up the phone before you give anyone your personal information, talk to your friends and families about these difficult subjects and you can even call me. I will put you in touch with our Office for the Aging or any of our other fantastic community organizations who are there to help you.
Each of us has a role to play in this effort and not just those of us in government. Let us all resolve to give people the rights tools and support to live out their golden years in safety and security. Crimes committed against vulnerable seniors are despicable, let us all fight back and work together to stamp out all forms of elder abuse.