Today is Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Each year, organisations that care about our seniors strive to draw attention and increase understanding of elder abuse. This is just one of the millions of awareness campaigns that take place every year. Sometimes one wonders if they make an impact but research shows they do. They change us in five ways:
- They shift our paradigms: The first goal awareness campaigns look to achieve is to make those in the community aware that there is something abnormal about what’s happening. Identifying the problem is the first step. This is when the experts explain what the problem looks like. For elder abuse, it may be bruises on the body, body language which radiates shame or a lack of provision. Depending on the kind of abuse, knowledgeable organisations share the key warning signs of abuse taking place, changing the perceptions of the community and so allowing them to see the pain points.
- They educate us: To improve understanding we may need to address stereotypes and challenge commonly held assumptions, to unpack the precursors for prevention or outline how to care for someone who is suffering. This process builds the understanding of the complexity of the issues being faced and increases the empathy for those who are struggling. For elder abuse, this can look like explaining elder abuse isn’t always intentional, physical violence, rather it may be the consequence of an exhausted caregiver failing to perform a necessary duty. Understanding why the problem happens allows for the community to move forward together. It starts a constructive conversation around the problem.
- They drive us to take action: awareness campaigns describe a series of smaller steps so that it no longer feels like an elephant of a problem, one that’s just too big to tackle. These campaigns put people who can help in touch with those in the community that need the assistance, eg: through helplines, various website links and discussion groups. For elder abuse, there are many local non-profit organisations, such as PADCA and Marian Villa, who are set up to help those in need and those seeing them to get help or refer them to a networking partner.
- They create a focal point: often a theme is selected to help make the problem faced more manageable. It highlights the biggest challenge or the way in which the most change can be made. For elder abuse, it’s access to justice. The abuse is known, it’s seen as unacceptable but getting protection for the senior isn’t easy. This has been identified as the area where a change will have a huge impact and so is the focus of the 2021 campaign.
- They make those who suffer feel seen and part of a community: awareness campaigns remind the sufferers that the rest of the community does care, hears them and is prepared to help. All those ribbons of colour, wrapped trees, signs and leaflets, educational talks and social media posts are the many different ways we communicate “I see you”.
In summary, Awareness Campaigns such as this help shape conversations around these very important topics, outline the symptoms so people know what to look for, and pose questions to make it easier for family, friends and communities to hold others accountable. They help us all make change for the better.
So today, in support of World Elder Awareness Abuse Day, we pin a purple ribbon on, we share articles on financial elder abuse and access to justice resources for seniors. And we say to all our very important seniors, “I see you.” You are a part of our community and you matter. #WEAAD