Sunday, May 15, 2011

Elder Abuse


Here is a student reaction paper about elder abuse.
            “With age comes wisdom” is an old adage that seems to be lost on the majority. In various countries, such as China, the elderly are revered for their wisdom and are seen as being an integral part of any deliberation process. Younger people are expected to defer to their elders, let them speak first, and always sit down after them. If aging is a natural part of life that should bring about wisdom and respect, how is it possible that every five seconds someone’s mother, grandmother, or grandfather is being abused in the United States?
            Elder abuse is defined as “any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult.” Each year hundreds of thousand of older individuals are abused, exploited and neglected by the people they trust to care for their personal wellbeing. This can be family members, friends, or paid helpers.  While volunteering at a local senior center I saw first hand how inadequately the elder population was being treated in my community. A majority of the residents were either alone, or had families that were unable or unwilling to care for them. The facility did what they could to offer support, providing one hot meal a day and assistance with basic chores when needed; but the sad truth was it simply wasn’t enough. On numerous occasions there wasn’t a sufficient supply of food for all of the residents, the younger population would exploit the elderly for money and other goods, and the individuals running the programs seemed unsympathetic by this obvious negligence. When I asked a woman in charge about these issues she simply stated that it is an independent living facility, and the residents are expected to fend for themselves a greater part of the time. All I could see in that moment was my own grandmother, and how I’d feel if someone told me she’s expected to “fend for herself.” Elder abuse is not exclusively defined as physical abuse, but: negligence, exploitation, emotional abuse, abandonment, or self neglect as well. As a country we’ve established this way of thinking that once an individual can no longer hold down a job or partake in every day tasks they are insignificant and it’s this exact train of thought that leads to abuse.
            Every elderly person has seen things we could never dream of, been through things we could never imagine, and lived a life that deserves respect. I truly do believe with age comes wisdom, and it’s sad that a country as advanced as our own wouldn’t choose to utilize this strength instead of treating it’s own people as second-class citizens. 

1 comment:

Leslie Lim said...

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