B.C. launches elder abuse awareness program on social media

Isobel Mackenzie, B.C.’s new Seniors Advocate, says this is a step towards educating people on the reality of elder abuse.

At the beginning of the month, the B.C. government announced $1 million and a plan – Together to Reduce Elder Abuse – a strategy based mostly on social media to raise awareness of the issue facing many seniors in this province.

The effort uses the hashtag #RespectSeniors and the B.C. Centre for Elder Advocacy and Support handle, @BCCEAS to allow people to express support for seniors and spread the word about elder abuse issues.

Isobel Mackenzie, B.C.’s new Seniors Advocate, says this is a step towards educating people on the reality of elder abuse in this province – but says it must go further.

“Social media may or may not be the right avenue,” she said. “Not all seniors are there yet. We’ll still need phone numbers to call, people to talk to, as well as easy-to-use web sites.”

As an education tool for younger people, Mackenzie said it, too, is only a start. More must be done, she said, to help people recognize what is, and what is not, elder abuse and how they can report it.

Elder abuse can take many forms, Mackenzie explained. For example, a senior living in substandard housing may feel they have no choice but to do so, and be charged too much. There are physical, financial and emotional forms of elder abuse, Mackenzie continued, and it takes a lot to be able to recognize it as something quite serious, or just a decision you happen to disagree with – a situation that can happen to anyone, age 45 or age 85.

“Clearly, we aren’t communicating everything in a way that everyone can see or digest. We need to make it easy, use a simple approach to speak to seniors to explain the services and programs they are entitled to in their communities.”

Mackenzie said recognizing elder abuse can be as easy as talking to your neighbours, their families and caregivers.

For more about elder abuse and the new social media campaign, see www.seniorsbc.ca/elderabuse.

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