As the Baby Boomer generation continues to age, the elderly population is growing larger every day. Advancements in medical technology, medication, and facilities designed specifically for the care of aging seniors has allowed people to live longer than they ever have before. However, this also means at elder abuse is on the rise.
The United States 2010 census recorded the greatest number of people aged 65 and older in the history of the census. Based on those numbers, by 2050, the population of people aged 65 and older is expected to reach 83.7 million, which is nearly double the population of seniors in 2012. By 2050, those in the uppermost tiers of that age group – those who are 85 and older – are expected to reach a population of 18 million. Women are outliving men in this population.
With these populations booming, it’s no wonder that the prevalence of elder abuse is increasing. A larger population undoubtedly means that there are more instances to report, but statistics here are sobering as well. Studies vary, but it is believed that as few as 1 of every 14 instances of elder abuse actually gets reported. Another statistic puts that number at only 1 of every 6 occurrences of elder abuse being brought to the attention of state authorities.
The reporting statistics suffer a steep drop when it comes to the most common form of elder abuse, financial abuse. It is estimated that only 1 in every 25 cases of financial elder abuse are reported to authorities, but this abuse occurred at a rate of 41 out of every 1,000 surveyed. This was higher than other forms of elder abuse, including physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect.
No matter the kind of abuse, in 90% of the cases, the perpetrator is a family member such as a spouse or an adult child.
So, with the growing problem of elder abuse, what are federal and state governments doing to combat this scourge?
A lot, it turns out.
Elder abuse awareness month has long been held in June and takes place locally, nationally, and internationally. Jurisdictions around the country use the month of June to hold educational events to raise awareness to the problem.
Wisconsin is handing out free hidden cameras to people who believe that their loved one is being abused, and this is the second such program that has gone into effect. The loved ones may borrow the camera for 30 days to prove or disprove the allegations of abuse. The program is raising concerns among industry insiders, who fear that this kind of service may lead to invasions of privacy.
Oakland and Alameda counties in California hold special training sessions to help law enforcement organizations recognize the signs of elder abuse.
Stopping elder abuse is also the responsibility of the public. If you believe your loved one is experiencing elder abuse, don’t stay silent. Speak with the authorities to report the incident. You could be saving your loved one’s life.