The Fourth of July is the cornerstone of summer. It is a date where families will get together; BBQ’s will occur; and fireworks will be watched. Memories of our youth will resurface, and stories of our nation’s birth will be told.
Independence Day being on Friday this year, will turn the weekend into a three-day break. In short, it will be celebrated as a holiday.
Nineteen days prior to Independence Day, on Sunday June 15, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) will happen. No parades, however, will be marking this day, nor will picnics be planned around it. If you don’t read the paper that day or watch the news carefully, it will go unnoticed.
In 2006, WEAAD was created to bring awareness that elder abuse exist in our society. Judging from my experiences as supervisor of the Elder Abuse Unit at the Prosecutor’s Office, this goal has not been achieved. I get calls from victims and their families who are in shock that these crimes exist and they have fallen victims to them. Even within law enforcement, there is surprise at the rate these crimes occur and the ingenuity these criminals employ.
Part of our collective ignorance comes from the fact that these offenses are rarely reported to the police or covered by the media. This lack in reporting leads to the belief that these crimes do not occur that often, gives potential victims a false sense of security that this could never happen to them.
Another reason we don’t think about elder abuse is that, quite frankly, it’s depressing. Stories of elder abuse are reminders that this situation could be a possible future in our own lives. We don’t like to think that when we get older we might need assistance or become vulnerable. Just look at the small minority of us that have invested in long-term care insurance. We want to believe we are going to grow old — being healthy the entire time — and then, at the ripe age of 112, we will go to sleep and gently pass into the night. Events like WEAAD are not conducive to the “ignorance is bliss” mentality many of us share.
This observance day, however, does serve a purpose. Once a year, we might stumble upon a mentioning of this day and take a moment to think about our parents or grandparents and give them a call to see how they are doing. OR perhaps take another look at that piece of mail we got and question the sincerity of its claim that it has made us rich.
So, although WEAAD will most likely not become an event in the future where fireworks will be lit, it will for some remind us that although we won independence centuries ago, and we are not free from the crimes that target our seniors.