The situation of a rapidly aging population brings with it a whole new set of challenges for individuals, their families and society.
By Doreen Nicoll
Published February 03, 2015
I'm getting older. At least that's what my partner and children tell me. I guess I should thank them for sharing this with me otherwise I would never know. It seems there are a lot of us out there. Older people, I mean.
Like me, many of my friends and colleagues are baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964. In 2011, the first generation of boomers turned 65. Five million Canadians were seniors. That number will double in the next 25 years.
This situation of a rapidly aging population brings with it a whole new set of challenges for individuals, their families and society.
What we do know is that once someone can be visually identified as a senior, society tends to treat them differently. This is known as ageism, or the stereotyping of and discrimination against people based on their age. Ageism includes emotional, physical, psychological, financial, social, sexual, and spiritual abuse. It may also involve neglect - the failure to provide the necessities of life.
The majority of seniors experiencing elder abuse are women. They may have experienced domestic violence throughout their marriage. This abuse tends to escalate when their partner becomes their primary caregiver.
Women who have never experienced domestic abuse may become victims of violence for the first time when their primary care giver becomes overwhelmed with the task of providing ongoing care. Older men are sometimes physically assaulted but it's usually by a neighbor or acquaintance.
Women experience family violence when an adult child, usually a son, assumes the role of decision maker or unofficial power of attorney. Sons are the most likely perpetrators because segments of society still cling to the antiquated notion that a household has to have a male at the helm. This sense of male entitlement fostered by sexism and reinforced by ageism perpetuates gender inequalities.
The Ontario Domestic Violence Death Review Committee (2012) looked at one case of homicide and four cases of homicide/suicide involving adults over the age of 60. In all cases the women were murdered by their male partners.
Three couples had prior histories of domestic violence and displayed typical warning signs indicating that the women were high risk for being murdered. The two couples with no prior history of violence in their relationships did have signs of mental health issues including early onset dementia, depression, increasing physical limitations, and financial concerns.
Without intervention, homicide/suicide can become a very real option for caregivers without hope.
"It's Not Right!" is a vital aspect of the Neighbours, Friends and Family campaign designed to raise awareness of the signs of woman abuse.
The pamphlets, vignettes, and workshops help people close to an at-risk woman or an abusive man recognize the signs of elder abuse and learn how they can make a difference. Information is also available so that older adults experiencing abuse can safely reach out for help from their community.
Please take the time to visit the web site One in Four. This grassroots volunteer organization is committed to helping women in Hamilton connect with the services they need to leave and heal from domestic violence.
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