Alberta adopts strategy to prevent elder abuse

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A new five-year elder abuse prevention strategy was released last week by the province.

“A Collective Approach” will guide how nonprofits, frontline workers, businesses, individuals and governments work together to prevent and reduce elder abuse.

The strategy includes an updated definition of elder abuse.

“Our seniors deserve to be cherished and respected members of the community,” said Seniors and Housing Minister Josephine Pon. “Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.”

“All Albertans must work together to end elder abuse. Our new provincial strategy will help us all recognize the signs of abuse and understand the steps we can take to stop and report it.

The strategy identifies opportunities for collaboration with partners, such as community organizations, front-line workers, law enforcement agencies and the federal government.

The strategy has five objectives:

  • Increased awareness of what elder abuse is and how to prevent, identify and respond to it.
  • Training for qualified service providers, including customized training for Indigenous communities, health professionals and housing providers.
  • Coordinated community responses where communities and partners coordinate effectively to address elder abuse.
  • Protective laws and policies to protect older people and uphold their rights.
  • Improved data, information sharing, research and evaluation to support strong policy and programmatic responses, including awareness raising, prevention, early intervention and surveillance.

The Alberta Elder Abuse Awareness Council welcomed the new strategy.

“The strategy reflects Alberta’s growing senior population and the role everyone plays in preventing and responding to elder abuse,” Council Chair Shantel Ottenbreit said.

Elder abuse is now defined in the strategy as any intentional or reckless act or willful and negligent neglect, occurring within a relationship of family, trust or dependency, directed against a person 65 years of age or older, that:

  • Causes physical damage.
  • Causes emotional or psychological harm.
  • Involves the misappropriation or misuse of money or other personal property or personal or real property.
  • Subjects an individual to non-consensual sexual contact, activity or behavior, or fails to provide the necessities of life.

“A Collective Approach: Alberta’s Strategy to Prevent and Address Elder Abuse” was developed with input from elders, stakeholders and the public.

The most recent provincial elder abuse prevention strategy is over 10 years old. Alberta’s senior population has doubled to more than 700,000 seniors since its inception.

Prior to 2020, it was estimated that nearly one in 10 Alberta seniors could experience abuse, the highest percentage in Canada.

Rates of family violence, including elder abuse, tend to increase during and after natural disasters, public health crises, and economic downturns.

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