A seniors’ advocacy group is holding a fundraising gala for a shelter for abused elders — who have been loath to come forward when they’ve been victimized.
The Seniors Aid Society says the shelter is desperately needed for the extremely vulnerable and rapidly-growing population.
Venessa Barros started Seniors Aid Society last April. She said she’s met and spoken with many elderly people who have been physically and sexually abused.
“I would ask them, ‘Do you want us to go with you to the police station and make a report?’ And because they’re afraid … they say, ‘No, where am I going to go?’” Barros says.
“That is their biggest fear: Am I going to be left on the street? And the shelters … are constantly full.”
The group says the most common types of elder abuse are neglect (59 per cent), physical abuse (16 per cent), financial exploitation (12 per cent), and emotional abuse (seven per cent).
According to Toronto police, two to 10 per cent — about 40,000 to 200,000 — of seniors are abused in Ontario alone.
The problem is expected to become more widespread over the next decades, as baby boomers age. By 2030, about one in four people in Canada will be 65 or older.
Elder abuse drastically underreported
Only one in 20 elder abuse cases in the city are reported, says Toronto police’s vulnerable persons coordinator Jason Peddle. And the victim’s child is the perpetrator in 43 per cent of cases.
He says victims are often reluctant to report the crimes because they feel dependent on the abuser, they’re protecting the abuser, they feel an unhealthy relationship is better than nothing, or they feel shame, embarrassment or guilt.
Source: Toronto Police Service
“I wouldn’t say it’s a new problem,” Peddle says. “It’s always been there and has always been drastically under reported.”
He says by far the most frequent call he takes from the public is related to financial abuse perpetrated by family.
“Power of Attorney theft is a huge problem and so difficult to prosecute because there is so much grey area in the law,” he said, referring to the he-said-she-said nature of cases.
Peddle notes he has not seen a rise in the victimization of seniors over the past three years.
The Seniors Aid Society’s fundraising gala is on Saturday, Feb. 4.