By Representative Matt Cartwright (PA-17)
Physical, psychological, sexual or financial harm against people 65 years of age or older is a significant, serious, and ongoing social justice problem within the United States. Hundreds of thousands of older adults are abused, neglected, or financially exploited each year; according to the Department of Justice, it is estimated that 14.1 percent of all non-institutionalized seniors experience some form of abuse each year.
As the number of seniors grows, elder abuse could continue to increase. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the 2010 Census recorded the greatest number of people age 65 and older in all of decennial census history: 40.3 million people. Alarmingly, elder abuse remains a largely silent crime within the country. For every case reported, another 23 cases of elder abuse are unreported. Often, family members or caregivers are the perpetrators of elder abuse.
In 1965, Congress passed the Older Americans Act (OAA) in response to the lack of public social services for older adults. The law provided federal funding to states for social services and personnel training in the field of aging. The law also established the Administration on Aging (AoA) to administer the new programs and services that included caregiver support and protection from abuse and financial exploitation.
U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright (PA-17) and I, along with Senator Blumenthal (CT) recently introduced the Elder Protection and Abuse Prevention Act in Congress. The legislation would improve upon OAA structures by strengthening current federal standards, or definitions, for elder abuse and by providing states with the necessary resources to actively prevent elder abuse. Specifically, the bill would incorporate elder abuse prevention trainings, screenings, and reporting protocols into all senior service access points receiving federal dollars under this bill. Several organizations including the Alliance for Retired Americans, Alzheimer's Foundation of America, American Society on Aging, Elder Justice Coalition, LeadingAge, National Council on Aging, National Grange, National Senior Citizens Law Center, and The Senior Citizens League have endorsed the bill.
"I am proud to have worked with Senator Blumenthal to address elder abuse, a serious and ongoing issue," said Rep. Cartwright. "We have a shared responsibility to ensure the security of our seniors. No senior should have to worry about his or her safety."
America's seniors spend their lives working to provide a better future for their families and aid in the improvement of the nation as a whole. Seniors have earned the right to spend their golden years in security. It is the nation's duty to ensure the safety and health of our seniors by actively preventing elder abuse. Elder abuse requires the full attention of the nation. Protecting the welfare and well-being of older adults is a national priority.