Awareness Leading to Change: World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

June 14, 2024

Written by Jen Scherer,  ESPC Volunteer.

June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, dedicated to raising awareness, providing education, and encouraging conversations about elder abuse. Elder abuse is “any action or inaction by a person(s) in a trusting relationship that causes harm and distress to an older adult” (Alberta Elder Abuse Awareness Council, nd., Para.1). Estimates are that 1 in 10 Alberta seniors experience elder abuse (Government of Alberta, 2024), often from a spouse or family member (Alberta Elder Abuse Awareness Council, n.d.). Types of abuse can include financial abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, medication abuse, and neglect (Alberta Elder Abuse Awareness Council, nd.)

              Elder abuse is difficult to recognize because it occurs in private and behind closed doors. People may have many reasons for not speaking up about abuse they have experienced. Perhaps they are afraid they will not be believed, they may wish to preserve family relationships, they may be unable to explain what is happening, or perhaps they do not know who can help them. Ageism may contribute to elders’ experiences being dismissed or overlooked. Elder abuse can be complex to address. This is because elders may be reliant on those who abuse them for financial or caregiving support, they may have health challenges that limit their ability to seek help, or they may fear needing to move out of their own home without the support of their abuser.

              The Alberta government has a strategic plan to address and prevent elder abuse. There is a strong emphasis to increase awareness of elder abuse and to equip community members with the necessary knowledge to recognize and prevent elder abuse as well as where to go to find help (Government of Alberta, 2022).  If everyone has the tools to recognize, respond, and refer when they have a concern about elder abuse, older adults will have earlier intervention and a larger network of support when facing elder abuse (Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, 2021).

              While elder abuse can happen to anyone, some factors increase the likelihood of elder abuse occurring or increase the difficulty in finding help. Seniors who are isolated, are dependent on others, have cognitive or mental health concerns, or have a history in their family of domestic violence are at a higher risk for abuse (Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children, n.d.). Warning signs that a senior may be experiencing elder abuse include finding injuries that don’t have an explanation, a senior not having essential items that they need, changes in a senior’s financial situation, reduced social activities, and believing they are responsible for the financial or living situation of someone else. They may also exhibit behavioral changes- such as being suddenly fearful, withdrawn, or anxious (Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children, n.d.). It is important to believe a senior and not dismiss their concerns if they tell you that there is an issue or problem.

 Prevention of elder abuse requires addressing ageism (United Nations, n.d.). This includes valuing elders and their contributions to society, developing a sense of belonging and community for elders, and supporting caregivers with knowledge and resources on how to best care for their loved ones. The incidence and severity of elder abuse can be reduced in our community by increasing community connections and support, as well as reducing isolation for elders and their caregivers. Awareness is essential to preventing elder abuse- it is important for seniors, their supporters, and community members to be able to recognize elder abuse, know the resources to reach out to, and to believe that elders deserve to live with peace, safety, and dignity.

              When a community member recognizes a sign of elder abuse, the next steps are to respond and refer (Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, 2021). This may involve having a conversation with the elder to ask if they feel safe and address concerns or may involve calling a community resource that specializes in elder abuse (Canter for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children, n.d.). Edmonton has several resources for people who are concerned that they or someone they know may be experiencing elder abuse:

  • Alberta Elder Abuse Awareness Council- This organization hosts a very informative website about elder abuse, along with posters and infographics that can be printed and posted or distributed to raise awareness. They have also published a booklet intended for seniors, which can be accessed online: Staying Safe: A Resource for Older Adults Living in Alberta. Home – Alberta Elder Abuse Awareness Council (A.E.A.A.C)
  • Edmonton Seniors Abuse Hotline- 780-454-8888- This 24/7 phone line provides support, information, and referrals to anyone who has questions or concerns about elder abuse. Seniors’ Abuse Hotline – CMHA Edmonton
  • Family Violence Information Line- 780-310-1818- This 24/7 phone line provides information, support, and referrals to anyone who has a concern about family violence, including elder abuse. Family violence – Find supports |
  • Seniors Protection Partnership- 780-477-2929- This collaboration between several agencies in Edmonton provides intervention, education, support, and referrals for people experiencing elder abuse. Elder Abuse (
  • Sage Safe House- 780-702-1520- The Safe House provides temporary housing for older adults fleeing abuse. Elder Abuse: SAGE (



Alberta Elder Abuse Awareness Council. (2021). Staying Safe: A Resource for Older Adults Living in Alberta (p. 76).

Alberta Elder Abuse Awareness Council. (n.d.). What is Elder Abuse?

Canadian Mental Health Association. (2024). Seniors Abuse Hotline.

Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse. (2021). Future Us: A Roadmap to Elder Abuse Prevention.

Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children. (n.d.). How can you identify and help older adults at risk. It’s Not Right.

Government of Alberta. (2024). Elder Abuse- Get Help.

Government of Alberta. (2024). Family Violence- Find Supports.

Government of Alberta. (2022). A collective approach: Alberta’s strategy for preventing and addressing elder abuse.

SAGE Seniors Association. (n.d.). Safe House Intake.

United Nations. (n.d.). World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. UN Observances.


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