City of Vancouver marks World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

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Photo Melissa Shaw

Vancouver Green Party councillor Adriane Carr joined members of the city’s seniors advisory committee in marking World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

Carr, who read the proclamation, says elder abuse is “often a hidden tragic issue” and the day is as much about raising awareness as it is about prevention to make life safer for seniors.

Between four and 10 per cent of seniors in Canada will experience some form of physical, emotional, financial or sexual abuse, according to government data. Only one in five incidents of elder abuse is reported to someone that can help.

Clemencia Gomez, executive director of the South Granville Seniors Centre, knows of one senior who was dealing with financial abuse. The man smoked but couldn’t leave his hospital bed and gave his bank card to his best friend to go buy cigarettes for him.

The man later realized that he didn’t have any money in the bank and lost thousands. Gomez says she went with the man to the bank where the tellers identified the person who took the money as the man’s best friend.

“I told him, ‘we have to go to the police. You have to report that’ and he said ‘no I prefer to lose the money than to lose my best friend’ because he was very isolated and it was the only friend he had,” she says. “This is what happens with elder abuse. Most of the time it’s your friends or family that is taking advantage of you and they really don’t want to report it to the police.”

Scott Ricker, chair of the City of Vancouver’s Seniors Advisory Committee says people can help prevent elder abuse by becoming more aware of what is happening in their community. “If you don’t see somebody all of a sudden or their mail piles up contact them and make sure they’re alright. That’s a responsibility each of us has as a citizen.”

The BC Association of Community Response Networks (BCCRN) offers support to neglected and abused adults. BCCRN executive director Sherry Baker says they have 73 networks across the province.

“We just started a Chinese community response network so the Chinese people in the Lower Mainland can find out about the issue in their own language. We also work with First Nations communities,” Baker says.

In addition to the official proclamation, City Hall, Canada Place and Science World will be lit purple to mark the day.

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Melissa is a reporter at Vancouver Is Awesome and has worked primarily in radio and online media. She grew up in Ontario, went to school in Halifax and worked in Northern B.C. before moving to Vancouver. If you've got a story to share email: melissa@vancouverisawesome.com