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Local, state leaders ignite call-to-action for Elder Abuse Awareness Month

Dan Almasi

Only one in 24 cases of elder abuse are reported in New York State, according to the Council on Elder Abuse. June is World Elder Abuse Awareness month and, in New York, local and state officials are working to create a safer community for senior citizens by working to bring those who take advantage of the elderly to justice.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz is calling on the entire community to unify and stop elder abuse.

“Most of these allegations and what we know of elder abuse generally does not get reported,” Poloncarz said. “Why? Because the individual who was taken advantage of doesn’t want to admit that the individual who hurt them was a family member or a caretaker. That’s why we all have to come together to address this.”

Elder abuse can take many forms – psychological, sexual, physical and financial. Nationally, $36 billion is lost to financial exploitation of the elderly each year. The New York State Senate passed legislation in April that will help prevent the financial exploitation of mentally impaired elderly individuals.

State Senator Patrick Gallivan is working with community leaders to bring awareness to the critically underreported issue of elder abuse.

“It’s really hard to know the extent of the problem that we face, but we know that we have a problem,” Gallivan said. “And we know that to try to tackle it, and to try to do something about it comes in the form of education, and awareness, and people standing together and working together to try to do something about it.”

Karen Nicolson, CEO of Legal Services for the Elderly, is leading a call-to-action, urging the community to take a stand against elder abuse. Nicolson reminded the public that while Elder Abuse Awareness Month is a great platform to bring light to the issue, there is a need for proactive efforts to stop elder abuse year-round.

According to Legal Services for the Elderly, the victim knows his or her abuser in 90 percent of all elder abuse cases.  

“It makes it a really difficult issue to get people to come forward and to discuss, and it makes it a really difficult issue for law enforcement to even hear about it,” Nicolson said. “So, we really are excited today that we can shine a spotlight on elder abuse prevention.”

Both Buffalo City Hall and the Peace Bridge will be illuminated purple – the official color of World Elder Abuse Awareness – on June 15th.