Elder abuse: ‘The silent epidemic’

WASHINGTON – Saturday is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, and a local health official calls the problem “the silent epidemic.”

Eleven percent of senior citizens have reported being abused, according to the Administration on Aging, and agencies around the region have stepped up to bring attention to the issues.

John Kennedy, with Montgomery County’s Health and Human Services department, says that financial scams are a well-known form of elder abuse – the nation’s health-services watchdog says that scams cost elderly people close to $3 billion a year.

But there’s more to it than that. Ninety percent of elder abuse, Kennedy says, is perpetrated by relatives or people the victim knows.

Kennedy adds that elder abuse is under-reported, because the victims are afraid of being shamed. They’re also often isolated. Kennedy says that forming friendships is key to stopping abuse, “so that an older person would feel that they have a trusted friend that they could share this difficult situation with.”

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