2015-07-01 / Front Page

Campaign To Publicize Problem Of Elder Abuse

How surprised would you be if you were told that an estimated 260,000 older adults – more than a quarter million – had been the victims of elder abuse in 2010? We don’t know what your reaction would be, but it surely would shake us up.

Actually, that really happened in New York State in 2010, according to a study commissioned by the State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS). This information came to the attention of the State Senate’s Committee on Aging, and eventually further studies were done, hearings were held and legislation was passed authorizing the State Office of the Aging (SOFA) to conduct a public campaign to draw attention to the serious problem of elder abuse in New York State and throughout the nation.

Actually, both houses in Albany passed the legislation and the bill is on Gov. Cuomo’s desk awaiting his signature. All this came to our attention through state Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D–Howard Beach), a member of the Committee on Aging.

Addabbo informed us of the OCFS study conducted in 2011, which found that the 260,000 elderly victims were discovered the previous year. “It also found,” Addabbo said, “that elder abuse – which can be physical, emotional, sexual or financial – is often significantly underreported to law enforcement, adult protective services and other agencies charged with protecting senior citizens from harm.

As for the finally approved legislation, Addabbo said that “bringing more information about this terrible abuse to the attention of the public, will help to ensure that people are better able to recognize the signs of the problem and to intervene on behalf of vulnerable older New Yorkers.”

Addabbo said that under the approved bill, SOFA and the OCFS would collaborate on a public education campaign focusing on zero tolerance for elder abuse. Educational materials would be created to help identify the signs and symptoms of elder abuse, inform people of where and how to report the crime, and provide details about existing programs designed to provide assistance for victims. Public outreach would include printed materials, as well as audio, video and electronic media and public service announcements.

Addabbo noted, “I often hold free community events in my senate district, like the ones co-sponsored by the lawyers Brady and Marshak, to provide legal and other advice for seniors on a wide variety of topics, ranging from probate issues to changes in prescription medication programs.

“Education and public awareness are key to identifying problems facing our seniors and in taking steps to address their worries and concerns. I am glad the Senate and Assembly, with my support, took action to tackle the devastating issue of elder abuse, which appears to be tragically underreported.

“One National Research Council study estimated that only one in every 14 cases of elder abuse comes to the attention of the proper authorities.”— John Toscano

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