The main purpose for writing our weekly column is obviously to address matters related to fire safety, however from time to time there are issues concerning the safety of citizens that we feel should be addressed in this forum, one of those concerns is the matter of elder abuse. The recent shocking story about a 68 year old Toronto woman who was kept locked in an unheated garage made headlines throughout the country and brought the problem to the forefront for many politicians. According to the federal Minister of State for Seniors; Julian Fantino, this severe case is unfortunately not all that uncommon. Mr. Fantino, who before entering federal politics was the Commissioner for the Ontario Provincial Police knows what he is speaking about, and knows that prosecuting the abusers can be both frustrating and difficult. Some seniors lobby groups such as CARP are calling on the federal government to make elder abuse a specific crime to aid in the prosecution of abusers, however Mr. Fantino feels that the current system already deals with the matter when it is deemed that the abuser has “victimized” an elder. He does however admit that the group’s request does have some merit and that as a society we need to elevate the attention and response to senior abuse to the same level as child abuse. Unfortunately though senior abuse does not hold the public’s attention in the same way child abuse does, this may be in part to our natural tendency to protect children, but that doesn’t make it right. Many elders are sadly just as vulnerable as children to their abusers, often because of illness and dependence on others they find themselves unable to defend their own rights, and like a child submit to acts of cruelty, whether they are physical, mental or financial. As the population of baby boomers ages, our society will see a severe swing in demographics, the ratio of seniors to the rest of the population will be higher than ever before, and that will bring many challenges. Yet if current trends continue we will also see an ever growing number of elder abuse cases, but it doesn’t have to be that way. As a society we need to identify possible cases of elder abuse and report them just as we would for a child. Admittedly it will not be easy, seniors are more often shut-in as compared to children, seniors don’t have to report to school and seniors aren’t as visible in the community. I am not going to profess that I have all the answers to this problem, to be honest I realize that it is a difficult and complex matter. Nevertheless as a society we need to pressure our politicians to address this issue, and seniors themselves who are a very valuable group during elections need to make sure their collective voices are heard in the upcoming provincial and federal campaigns. There is strength in numbers, now is the time to make sure seniors are heard, valued and protected.
Published in the Villager newspaper March 9, 2011
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