A local senior is concerned about elder abuse from landlords. (File photo)

It’s time to work together to stop elder abuse

Opinion

By Josephine Pon, Minister of Seniors and Housing

Seniors built this province, and they continue to serve as pillars in our communities. They are the parents, grandparents, friends, neighbours, colleagues, volunteers, wisdom-granters and storytellers who play indispensable roles in our lives. Seniors should be cherished members of our families and communities but, sadly, that is not always the case.

Elder abuse is a serious issue in our province. It is estimated one in 10 Alberta seniors is a victim of elder abuse, but any number is too many. It breaks my heart to know there are seniors who are prey to abuse that can be financial, sexual, physical or emotional in nature. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has made a difficult situation worse by increasing seniors’ risk factors for abuse, such as social isolation.

It has never been more important to put a stop to elder abuse. This is why Alberta’s government has created a new plan, A Collective Approach: Alberta’s strategy for preventing and addressing elder abuse.

A Collective Approach outlines how we can all work together over the next five years to create a safer future for our seniors. It focuses on increased awareness, enhanced training for service providers, coordinated community response, strengthened protective laws and policies, and improved data sharing and collecting. The new strategy also includes an updated definition of elder abuse that will be consistently applied across the family violence prevention network.

This new strategy recognizes that solutions to elder abuse are best created at the community level. Communities are familiar with the specific challenges that face their seniors. They are in an ideal position to identify gaps and implement solutions.

As someone who worked in the banking industry, I am focused on ensuring financial service professionals, frontline staff, and others who have frequent contact with seniors, know how to recognize and take action when it comes to instances of financial abuse. Our new strategy includes working with financial service providers to inform them on how to spot and respond to this type of abuse.

Over the years, Alberta’s government has proudly made investments to support our community partner organizations that deal with elder abuse firsthand, and we continue to work alongside them in their efforts to prevent and stop elder abuse.

Elder abuse is a complex issue. It requires teamwork and collaboration across people and organizations. The more people shine a light on this issue, the easier it will be to spot it before it happens.

I invite all Albertans to read the new strategy, and consider ways they can make a difference in their own families and communities. Maybe you can start by just talking about it with the people around you. Seniors deserve to live life free of abuse and neglect – let’s work together to make our province safer for them.