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Only 9 days before the start of DVAM 2019...

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day: Building Strong Support for LGBT Older Adults (June 15, 2017)

by Ivonne Ortiz, Training & Education Specialist forNational Resource Center on Domestic Violence

"On this Day, I call upon Member States and civil society to strengthen their resolve and redouble their efforts to eliminate all forms of violence and abuse against older people." - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) is recognized annually on June 15th. Since its inception in  2006, communities throughout the country and around the world have used this day to raise the visibility of elder abuse by sharing information about abuse, neglect, and exploitation in later life and promoting the resources and services that work to increase victim safety and improve offender accountability.

The U.S. Administration on Aging estimates that as many as 1 in 10 older Americans are abused or neglected each year. The National Elder Abuse Incidence Study suggests that elder abuse is significantly under-identified and under-reported, and that as few as 1 in 14 cases of elder abuse come to the attention of authorities.


What is Elder Abuse?

Although definitions of elder abuse vary, the term generally refers to any physical, sexual, or psychological abuse, neglect, abandonment, or financial exploitation of an older person either within a relationship where there is an expectation of trust and/or when an older person is targeted based on age or disability. (U.S. DOJ, 2013)


Like other forms of interpersonal violence, victims of elder abuse may be reluctant to report the abuse due to:

  •  •  Feeling ashamed and embarrassed, particularly if a family member is the abuser.
  •  •  Being afraid that the abuser will get in trouble.
  •  •  Worrying that they will be forced to live in a nursing home—and this sometimes happens.
  •  •  Feeling guilty or somehow to blame.
  •  •  Being in denial that the abuse is occurring, or unaware that what they are experiencing is abuse or neglect.
  •  •  Being afraid that if they report, the abuse will get worse.
  •  •  Some victims are unable to speak out due to dementia or other impairments, or are not believed when they do.


Listen to a Discussion of the Dynamics

Advocates are encouraged to listen to this 30-minute BlogTalkRadio session, recorded in 2011 for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. This segment discusses the “silver tsunami,” the impact of aging on our society, ageism, and how community-based programs can work together to prevent and respond to abuse and neglect in later life. Listeners will hear from experts at the National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life, the University of California Irvine Center of Excellence on Elder Abuse & Neglect and the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, with support being provided by the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence.ce on Elder Abuse & Neglect and the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, with support being provided by the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence.


Elder Abuse in the LGBT Community

Elder abuse is a tragedy that impacts older adults of all races, cultures, sexual orientations, social classes, geographic areas, faith communities, mental capacities, and physical abilities. Older adults that identity as lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) can experience abuse in unique ways.

The report Improving The Lives of LBGT Older Adults highlights the many obstacles this community encounters including discrimination, social stigma and prejudice. In some cases, the fear and social stigma has altered their lives, family relationships, income, and access to life saving services. The impact of a enduring this oppression across the lifespan can put LGBT older adults at greater risk of physical and mental abuse, in addition to other conditions that can include:

  •  •  Social isolation
  •  •  Depression and anxiety
  •  •  Chronic diseases
  •  •  Delays in the search for medical care
  •  •  Poor nutrition

While older LGBT people may be at increased risk for abuse, research suggests that, compared to older heterosexuals, they are also less likely to access geriatric services and providers, nursing homes, food programs and others, because they fear being discriminated against or harassed if the service provider came to know their sexual orientation or gender identity (Croghan, Moone & Olson, 2015). LGBT seniors may be reluctant to access geriatric agencies and services, and only seek medical help in an emergency.

Creating Welcoming & Inclusive Services

The National Resource Center on LGBT Aging is the country's first and only technical assistance resource center aimed at improving the quality of services and supports offered to lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender older adults. If your organization is interested in providing services to LGBT older adults, but are unsure about how to best serve and support them, the NRC suggests the following practice strategies in their guide Inclusive Services for LGBT Older Adults:

Knowledge is key to inclusion. The special challenges facing many LGBT older adults must be kept in mind and adequately addressed when designing and providing services to the aging.

Terminology makes a difference. To create a welcoming and inclusive environment for LGBT older adults, staff should begin by using inclusive terms, phrases, and language that do not presume a sexual orientation, gender identity, or relationship status.

Good first impressions demonstrate inclusion. As a group of people who have been historically marginalized, LGBT older people have a tendency to “scan the room” when they enter a new facility, looking for visible signs that it is welcoming.

Set the tone through programming. Maximize your agency’s inclusiveness by giving LGBT clients a physical gathering space where they can share common experiences.

Gender affirmation is vital. Ask survivors their preferred gender pronouns (i.e., “she/her” rather than “he/him”).

Lasting change starts with everyone. Agencies should reinforce their commitment to diversity by continually training current staff about the agency’s commitment to inclusion and welcoming all clients, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ethnicity, disability, and more.

Training all staff on how to identify and address the needs of LGBT older adults is key to making an agency more inclusive. Staff members should participate in training programs with trusted and credible trainers who will enhance knowledge and skills about LGBT older adults and their intersecting identities of race, ethnicity, and culture.

Learn More:


Silver Pain: Elder Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation

This NRCDV radio podcast production was recorded in commemoration of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2017. NRCDV is proud to join efforts with the National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life(NCALL) to highlight the release of their Abuse in Later Life Education Series for Advocates. These 30-minute modules were specifically designed with domestic and sexual abuse victim service programs in mind, and include videos, handouts, and links to additional resources that can support program in response to abuse in later life. Click here to access the recording.