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Reports of elder abuse soar in Canada as COVID-19 further isolates vulnerable seniors

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We sent the following press release on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day


Toronto ON, June 15—June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. To mark this important annual day of awareness CanAge, Canada’s National Seniors’ Advocacy Organization, is teaming up with longstanding partners Elder Abuse Prevention Ontario (EAPO) and the Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (CNPEA) to deliver a stark reminder that “human rights don’t get old”. COVID-19 has caused a sharp uptick in reported incidents of elder abuse—exacerbating an already urgent issue. Calls to the Seniors Safety Line in Ontario increased 250% last year.

The three organizations are hosting a national online event at 1 PM ET, free and open to the public, featuring federal Seniors Minister Deb Schulte as a speaker and guest of honour. ‘Aging with Rights: Ending Elder Abuse in Canada’ is a not-to-be-missed interactive virtual event bringing together a panel of experts, political figures, advocates and concerned people to engage in an inspiring discussion about how we, as a country, can fight elder abuse and protect the rights of older people.

“1 in 6 older people are victims of elder abuse, most often at the hands of a family member or friend,” says Laura Tamblyn Watts, CEO of CanAge. “Isolation caused by COVID-19 has put even more seniors at risk. World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is a golden opportunity to bring this often-ignored crisis into the public eye where it belongs.”

She adds that “elder abuse needs to be treated with as much urgency by governments as domestic violence and other forms of inter relational abuse.”

Elder abuse is most often committed by a trusted friend or family member, and often goes unreported. Further compounding the problem is that underlying ageism (age-based prejudice) has resulted in elder abuse not being addressed with the same level of urgency and action as are other forms of relationship-based abuse, like domestic violence.

This year’s federal budget announced $50 million over five years to design and deliver interventions that promote safe relationships, including elder abuse prevention—a step CanAge sees as a major step forward in protecting vulnerable seniors from harm.

“Most people are not aware of how widespread a problem elder abuse is in Canada,” notes Tamblyn Watts. “As a country, we need to raise awareness of the issue and where people can go for help. We also need to make drastic investments in response services, so that help comes quickly when it’s needed most.”

“COVID-19 exposed significant fault lines in our system when it comes to the care, well-being, and rights of older people,” says Benedicte Schoepflin, Executive Director of CNPEA. “Older Canadians deserve better than a public discourse that pits generations against each other and measures the value of a human life based on age. They also deserve policies and actions that will uphold their rights.”

“From the early onset of the pandemic, elder abuse cases skyrocketed. In Ontario alone, the Seniors Safety Line reported a 250% increase in cases,” says Marta Hajek, Executive Director, Elder Abuse Prevention Ontario. “Together with our community partners, we have been mapping out next steps to support this growing vulnerable demographic from further harm. For Canadians this is a point of reckoning—we, as a country, must ensure that we take appropriate action to address this ‘silent pandemic’”.

For more information, or to register for the event, go to www.WEAAD.ca.

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