Elder abuse, ageism a growing problem

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Elder abuse and neglect is becoming a bigger societal issue for an aging population -- and especially with young adults often moving back into the homestead, Manon Thompson told her audience on Thursday.

"Something we're seeing more and more of is children moving back in (with parents or grandparents) and taking over," said Thompson, a regional consultant for eastern Ontario with Elder Abuse Ontario.

Thompson was the after-breakfast speaker at the Community Action Network Against Abuse (Stormont, Dundas, Glengarry and Akwesasne) meeting held at the Knights of Columbus hall in Cornwall.

Thompson discussed the "It's Not Right! Neighbours, Friends and Families for Older Adults" program that asks people to change the world with "YOU power" -- recognizing and solving the problem of elder abuse.

"You power -- most people don't know it, but you are a powerful person in the world," Thompson said.

She talked about the journey of steps, a simple strategy for approaching the problem that includes opening eyes to the issue of elder abuse, understanding the warning signs and being proactive in helping victims.

"It starts with the heart," she said. "Everything you do has an impact, it will make a difference.

"Ageism is probably one of the biggest prejudices we have today (in society). We all have ageist attitudes. You're being ageist against yourself if you say something like, "well, I'm too old, I can't do that (a particular activity)'. . .ageism is a negative attitude, discrimination is a negative behaviour."

Thompson noted the irony of ageism attitudes, saying "why do we discriminate against older people when one day each of us will be the older person?"

What constitutes abuse toward older adults? "It's harm caused by someone who limits or controls their rights and freedoms," she said. "Abuse is not just impolite or rude behaviour. Abuse is the misuse of power."

But, there are all kinds of "services out there that can help (the abused)," she said.

The Community Action Network Against Abuse is a network of service providers and people from the local communities who work together to try and end abuse, including, of course, domestic abuse.

The issue has been worldwide headline news the last couple of weeks, with the National Football League's handling of the Ray Rice domestic violence case under the microscope.

"That has really brought domestic violence to light, again," said Diane Plourde, the CANAA chair.

"It's a big problem everywhere, (including) in this community."

Plourde noted that CANAA has "made many changes throughout the year. . .and we've grown."

Thursday's meeting looked at topics including ensuring sustainability and providing funding for other related initiatives that are not CANAA-driven, including an upcoming International Day of the Girl, which focuses on self-esteem to help young girls who could end up becoming victims of abuse.

Through networking efforts with over 20 agencies in the area, CANAA works toward ensuring that no citizen is left behind, and joint promotional campaigns and workshops are held annually to help make people aware of the many services available locally.

The network meets several times each year, with the annual general meeting held in the spring.

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