World Elder Abuse 2021
24 June 2021
By Monika Steger
June is a month of raising awareness for many important issues and communities relevant to our work at the CCEL. June is 2SLGBTQ+ Pride Month, National indigenous History Month, and Elder Abuse Awareness Month. June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. This blog post will review a recent elder abuse event hosted by Elder Abuse Prevention (ON), CanAge and Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse which featured a panel that included our National Director, Krista James. The event had a broad reach, with more than 750 participants and over 1000 registrants
The event was part of this year’s #RightsDoNotGetOld campaign. This campaign is especially timely considering the COVID-19 pandemic and how the virus and pandemic protocols have negatively impacted older adults.
Following a land acknowledgement and welcome by Métis Nation member Kerry Baisley, the Honourable Deb Schulte gave an opening address. The Minister discussed current and future federal initiatives including an upcoming roundtable and online consultation to gain feedback to create a federal definition of elder abuse. The online consultation portal opened on June 15th, 2021 and will remain open until July 22nd, 2021. People who wish to participate can either do so online or by email.
The event also featured the Dr. Elizabeth Podnieks Award For Elder Rights In Canada. The award was given to Dr. Lynn McDonald. Dr. McDonald is the Scientific Director at the National Initiative for the Care of the Elderly (“NICE”) and former Director of the Institute for Life Course and Aging at the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto. She is an influential advocate for older adults’ rights and was the principal researcher for Canada’s most recent national prevalence study of elder abuse. The award recognizes contributions in the field of aging studies and elder abuse awareness and prevention.
The event’s panel followed. The panel included Dr. Olive Bryanton, a well-known researcher and older adults’ rights advocate—you can watch a CBC documentary on her here—Alex Mihailidis from AGE-WELL, Raza Mirza from NICE, Roxane Leboeuf from l’Université de Sherbrooke, and Krista James from CCEL.
Supporting for Decison-Making Autonomy
The panel began by reflecting on older adults’ rights, which was pertinent considering the hashtag #RightsDoNotGetOld. Krista James emphasized the importance of respect for older people’s rights to self-determination and decision-making autonomy. She explained that some people are particularly vulnerable to loss of these rights, such as people who are living with dementia or other cognitive impairments. This respect needs to be fundamental in policy and practice in order to support decision-making autonomy. In response to a question regarding quality of life in long-term care during the pandemic, Krista pointed to the importance of having in place staff and other resources or practices to understand how each person communicates, regardless of whether the person is living with cognitive impairments. Communication support can enable residents to identify their concerns and needs, and to participate meaningfully in decision-making.
Alex Mihailidis discussed the need for technology for older adults. He clarified that despite negative stereotypes, 72% of Canadians who are 65 years of age and older are confident using current technologies. He underscored the need to better support older adults’ access to technology and to continue to decrease the technology generational gap.
The conversation then turned to ageism and abuse. Raza Mirza noted a recent newspaper headline which loosely said that “when baby boomers finally leave their home it will free up space for younger homeowners”. He explained that this headline not only promotes ageist ideals, but also potentially dissuades some older adults who want to age at home from trying to do so. He mentioned the Canada Home Share Program, developed by NICE, which brings generations together by offering opportunities for young people needing housing to connect with older adults who have extra space to share. This program aims to combat isolation and loneliness, and to promote intergenerational connections.
Roxanne Leboeuf further discussed housing – specifically collective housing. She highlighted types of abuse that can occur within long-term care homes such as psychological, physical, material, or sexual abuse. She explained that abuse can also occur between residents. She encouraged residents and family members to be involved collectively in decision-making. Involvement in decision-making is crucial not only to promoting better patient health but also to promoting more beneficial policies within the home.
Olive Bryanton ended the panel on a powerful note. She rightly pointed out that ageist attitudes are often ubiquitous. People talk about the “problem” of older adults and aging. She explained that comments that diminish older adults’ value or capacity are extremely harmful and can diminish the worth and diversity of the older adult community. These attitudes can push older adults out of different social and workplace spheres.
It was a short discussion; however, the panelists identified many older adults’ rights issues that require our urgent attention. Elder abuse is a complex issue within Canada and there cannot be just one solution. There needs to be collective advocacy in order to address all of the nuances of this issue. This event helped promote this collaboration. All participants participated in a poll at the event. 98% of respondents believed that there ought to be an Elder Abuse Strategy in Canada funded by Government. Further, 99% of participants believed that there ought to be Elder Abuse Networks in every Province and Territory in Canada. This high consensus will hopefully propel positive change to occur within Canada moving forward.
If you wish to view the event please find it here.