The Greensville County Board of Supervisors voted last week to proclaim June 15, 2021 to be Elder Abuse Awareness Day, recognizing the professionals, agencies and advocates for their efforts to advance awareness of elder abuse.

According to the Department of Justice (DOJ) Elder Abuse Initiative, elder abuse in an intentional or negligent act by any person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to an older adult. Subtypes of elder abuse include physical abuse, financial fraud, scams, exploitation, caregiver neglect and abandonment, psychological abuse and sexual abuse. DOJ reports that elder abuse affects at least 10% of older Americans every year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly difficult for older Americans. According to the National Center for Elder Abuse, risk factors for elder abuse can include low social supports, poor physical health and experience of traumatic events. All of these factors have been heightened by the pandemic.

DOJ reports that close to half of elderly individuals who suffer from dementia will experience abuse during their lifetime. Research suggests that elderly individuals who experience cognitive impairment, physical disabilities and isolation are more likely to become victims of abuse than those without disabilities.

The Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) reports that the majority of incidents of adult abuse, neglect or exploitation occurs in the adult’s own living space. The National Adult Protective Services Association reports that approximately 90% of the perpetrators in elder financial exploitation cases are family members or other trusted individuals.

Elder abuse, neglect or exploitation has no boundaries and cross all racial, social, class, gender and geographic lines, according to the Elder Justice Coalition. Only a small portion of elder abuse cases is reported to authorities. Public awareness of elder abuse has the potential to increase identification and reporting of this crime by the public, professionals and victims.

In 2006, the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse proclaimed June 15 of each year as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.