Alaska Voices: Elders deserve secure, wholesome residing environments

June 15th is World Awareness Day for Elderly Abuse. On this day, communities in the United States and around the world will sponsor events to find solutions to this systemic social challenge.

The State of Alaska, Long-Term Care Ombudsman, the State of Alaska, Department of Seniors and Disability Services, AARP-Alaska, and the Alaska Commission on Aging are proud to be part of this national conversation and will also be hosting a series of training courses on elder abuse awareness and prevention. Our common goal is to protect the health, safety, welfare, and rights of seniors living in Alaska.

There are currently 91,281 elderly people aged 65 and over in Alaska. According to the Administration on Aging data, Alaska is the fastest aging state in the United States. The number of seniors in Alaska will continue to grow over the next decade.

It is important that Alaskan elders have the support to age well wherever they choose to live. As Americans, we believe in justice for all, yet older members of our society are abused or neglected every day across the country.

The elderly are vital, essential members of American society, and their abuse degrades us all. Just as we have addressed the social problems of child abuse and domestic violence, we can also find solutions to address problems such as elder abuse, which also threatens the well-being of our community.

Social norms and practices make it difficult for older people to remain involved in and connected to our communities as they age. As a result, older people are more likely to experience social isolation, which increases the likelihood of abuse and neglect. We can create stronger social support to keep older people connected and protect them from abuse, be it financially, emotionally, physically, or sexually.

When we address a root cause like social isolation, we also reduce the likelihood of people being neglected. Older people who are socially connected and protected from harm are less likely to be hospitalized, go to nursing homes and die less often.

We can and must create healthier and safer living environments for older adults, including in their homes, nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

For more information on how you can make a difference by visiting the National Center on Elder Abuse or calling the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 for local community services and support to explore.

Stephanie Wheeler is the Alaska Long-Term Care Ombudsman. John Lee is the director of the Senior and Disabled Services Division for the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. Lisa Morley is the executive director of the Alaska Commission on Aging. Teresa Holt is the director of AARP – Alaska.

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