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Older Americans are the Key to Elder Justice

By Julie Schoen, JD, NCEA Deputy Director

January 12, 2018

The 1960s were a tumultuous time, filled with activism and passion.  Human rights, the expression of equality and acceptance were common themes.  People marched, conducted “sit ins” and collaborated to have their voices heard and to turn the public’s attention to equality and justice. Sound familiar?

Fast forward to 2018 and it occurred to me that these same activists now comprise a significant portion of our “baby boomer” generation.  They still exemplify a passion for change, a dynamic force that is reclassifying what aging means today and taking up new social justice issues.

I was preparing for a presentation to an emeriti group here at USC.  I was so impressed by the alumni’s energy and inquisitiveness, yet there was definitely hesitancy as they approached our resource table for the National Center on Elder Abuse, NCEA.   They stopped by the table to pick up a pen or a brochure, but they really did not want to engage and I even heard comments like, “That is so sad, but what can you do about elder abuse?”  I thought “This is the group that can truly effectuate change, these are the people who rallied for social justice and equality”, so I began to pitch the topic of Elder Abuse as a social justice issue and conveying that their participation, support and collaboration could truly make a difference. Suddenly, we were having solution oriented conversations!

Igniting this concept of elder abuse as elder justice has been part of the NCEA’s agenda for quite some time.  In conjunction with the Frameworks Institute, we have collaborated on research and have developed a public service announcement- Strengthening the Structure of Justice to Prevent Elder Abuse(Long) and (Short)tool kit and a methodology for change. When later in the day I provided my presentation to this group of esteemed alumni, I could feel the energy as people embraced this concept of social justice and collaboration. We are all aging; we all seek to live in a world that provides dignity and respect for everyone.  We want to support the integration of older adults into all facets of our communities, preventing isolation, providing opportunities for interaction and ending abuse.

As NCEA begins 2018 we have a robust year of continuing initiatives ahead of us: the impact of the opioid epidemic on elder abuse, the concept of surveillance in nursing homes, the prevention of financial abuse schemes against our veterans and others, the education of our law enforcement concerning ways of handling abuse situations, the promotion of research and policy changes, the provision of a World Elder Abuse Awareness Campaign that provides meaningful, measurable opportunities for change and so much more.  So, in addition to our continued efforts to promote cultural competency and stimulating interest among scholars and professionals to pursue careers in this field, we embark on new innovations for social justice and support. We have not forgotten the Elder Justice Roadmap in our planning so as we proceed, let’s make sure that we fully engage those activists and everyone who has e a vision of society based on peace and love.  We look forward to collaborating with all of you to make this vision a reality.

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