It takes community to support our vulnerable seniors

Letter to the Editor, submitted by Darryl Plecas, Parliamentary Secretary for Seniors, regarding elder abuse.

  • Aug. 8, 2015 5:00 a.m.

Submitted by Darryl PlecasParliamentary Secretary for Seniors

Seniors are an important part of our communities. They are our parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, mentors, neighbours and friends.

We want them to enjoy the fullest life possible in B.C. and that includes making sure they feel safe.

Sometimes, as they age, seniors become targets of abuse. Estimates show between four per cent and 10 per cent of seniors will experience some form of physical, emotional, financial or sexual abuse, or neglect.

Elder abuse can be very difficult to detect. Seniors are often reluctant to report abuse by family members. Consequently, it is significantly under-reported. The work that the Office of the Seniors Advocate is doing with regard to how these cases are reported is an important step in the continued efforts to end this unfortunate reality. While elder abuse may be hard to detect, it is always unacceptable.

Each and every one of us has a role to play in ending elder abuse. The societal and attitudinal shift to support and respect seniors’ dignity and Independence will come from within our communities.

We all need a helping hand once in a while, and as a government we recognize that it takes a community to support vulnerable seniors. This community is as much the community they live in as the community of experts that will help build strategies and plans to end elder abuse. In 2013, we brought together one such community of experts to form a provincial, multi-sector council to reduce elder abuse.

The council includes experts from the financial, health care, public safety and community outreach sectors, as well as a variety of communities and, most importantly, seniors themselves. The council’s work is guided by the provincial plan “Together to Reduce Elder Abuse – B.C.’s Strategy”.

While it may be a challenging topic to discuss, raising awareness is the first step. In 2014, we launched a social media campaign to encourage B.C. to come together as a proactive, aware and concerned community for the well-being of seniors. I encourage you to join us. Share your thoughts and experiences to help bring this issue to the forefront using the hashtag, #RespectSeniors

Helping seniors stay where they feel most at home, in our communities, is also key to their independence. This is why community-based support is so important. In June, we gave the B.C. Association of Community Response Networks $2.6 million to expand its operations to more communities. We also invested in community-based awareness building, training and improved elder-abuse response programs through funding, totalling $700,000 over two years to support council to reduce elder abuse priorities.

A large part of our government’s direction in creating a more sustainable health care system is centred around our growing seniors’ population, many of whom helped build this province. Seniors want to be able to live independently for as long as possible. We are working to support that goal with our “Setting Priorities for the B.C. Health System” document that is guiding our path forward in all areas of the health system, including home and community care.

When seniors are supported and active, our communities thrive. Together, we can create supportive and inclusive communities free of elder abuse by keeping the conversation going and lending a helping hand. When we do our part to support our parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, mentors, neighbours and friends, we get so much more in return.

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