4 min read

Understanding and Combating Elder Abuse: A Positive Path Forward

Elder abuse is an often overlooked issue that affects a significant portion of older adults. According to recent studies, one in six older adults report experiencing some form of elder abuse[i]. This statistic is even more alarming among individuals with dementia, where it is reported that one in every two people living with dementia experience elder abuse[ii]. Despite these concerning numbers, elder abuse is frequently referred to as the silenced problem, largely due to the stigma attached to it. It is a subject shrouded in secrecy and shame, preventing many from speaking out and seeking the help they need. So why is that?

As a society, we often harbour a fear of aging and death, failing to prepare individuals for this inevitable stage of life. When we fear growing older, it negatively impacts how we value aging and older people, making them more vulnerable to abuse. Understanding the prevalence surrounding elder abuse, it’s crucial to begin adopting more positive outlooks and embracing aging with a new attitude. Afterall, as the famous quote by Mark Twain goes “growing older is a privilege denied to many”.

A shift in societal attitudes towards aging can empower older adults to speak up about their experiences, and encourage dialogue among generations. When older adults feel respected, heard, and valued, they are more likely to report abuse and seek support. Creating an environment where older adults feel comfortable sharing their stories is essential in breaking the cycle of silence and stigma.

One effective approach to fostering respect and understanding is through multigenerational dialogues. By creating spaces where children, youth, younger and older adults can communicate openly, we can bridge the gap between generations. These dialogues allow for sharing different experiences and discovering common ground, as well as fostering mutual respect and understanding.

At Carya, we know that as we age, it’s natural to mourn the loss of our younger selves. However, embracing an optimistic mindset can significantly impact our quality of life. Studies have shown that maintaining a positive outlook can add up to seven and a half years to one’s lifespan[iii]. Programs like Carya’s Elder Friendly Communities play a crucial role in supporting this positive outlook. These programs are designed to foster inclusive environments where older adults can thrive, connect, and continue to lead  fulfilling lives. They provide resources and support to help older adults remain active, engaged, and socially connected, which are key factors in maintaining mental and physical well-being. By creating age-friendly spaces and encouraging community involvement, Carya empowers older adults to embrace their age with confidence and dignity, knowing they have the support and respect of their community.

Carya’s Elder Friendly Communities initiative exemplifies how we can shift our societal attitudes towards aging and promote a culture that values and uplifts the older adults in our community. Through such programs, we can ensure that older adults feel respected, heard, and valued, ultimately helping to reduce the stigma associated with elder abuse and fostering a community where aging is celebrated.

Older adults, like everyone else, deserve access to the supports they need. Together, we can build a supportive community that combats elder abuse and celebrates aging with dignity and respect.

If you or someone you know may be experiencing elder abuse, please call the Elder Abuse Resource Line at 403-705-3250 or to make a report on a suspected case of elder abuse please call the police non-emergency line at 403-266-1234.

More Resources for Older Adults:

Counselling and System Navigation:

Community and Connection:

[i] World Health Organization. (2022). Abuse of older people. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/abuse-of-older-people

[ii] CBC News. (2010). People with dementia abused by caregivers: Study. Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/science/people-with-dementia-abused-by-caregivers-study-1.850463

[iii] Levy, B. R., et al. (2002). Longevity increased by positive self-perceptions of aging. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83(2), 261–270.