Petaluma People Services Center and the City of Petaluma’s Senior Center are part of a coalition of Sonoma County senior advocates, services providers and law enforcement officials that have planned community events, education and action to honor and recognize World Elder Awareness Day on June 15, 2015.  This is your call to action!  You might be a senior caring for yourself, a concerned neighbor or friend living near an older adult, or you are a family member caring for a parent or grandparent and we need you now. We are asking you today and always to help us ensure that  your neighbor, your family member,  or you are safer by understanding and preparing to take action against elder abuse and neglect.

In Petaluma and throughout the county, residents who are 60 and older now account for 21% of our population; the statewide average is 16.9%. By 2030, Sonoma County baby boomers (including me) will account for 25%.  As our older adult population continues to grow, tragically, so do the number of reported abuse and neglect cases. In just Sonoma County,  more than 4000 cases were reported in 2014 — an 84% increase in just seven years. That is why both intervention in and prevention of elder abuse and neglect are especially important today.

Elder abuse happens in several ways – financial, physical and emotional (or any combination of these), and it can dramatically impact an elderly person’s ability to live independently and make their own life choices. Elder neglect is mistreatment by caregivers or self-neglect, and seniors who live alone are especially vulnerable to both.  Seniors with dementia or disabilities face an even higher risk than other seniors for all forms of abuse, including violence by a caregiver. The reason we don’t hear more about this is simple: many times it is unreported because many of our seniors don’t have family or friends checking in on them and it either doesn’t occur to them to ask for help, or they are incapable of it due to fear of retaliation such as an escalation to violence or displacement, or diminishing cognitive abilities.

You can help.  Learn the signs of abuse and neglect, call or visit loved ones to ask how they are doing, ask your bank to train staff to look for signs of elder financial abuse, ask your place of worship to invite PPSC to speak on how to recognize the signs of abuse, volunteer as a PPSC Friendly Visitor, or visit the county’s website for more information: www.sonoma-county.org/human/adult_aging.htm or PPSC’s website at www.petalumapeople.org or call us at 707-765-8488, our caring staff will be here to help provide you, your neighbor, or family member with support services. 

We also encourage you to join us by wearing purple on June 15, when you will see more than 4,000 purple flags displayed on public building lawns throughout Sonoma County.  Each flag will represent one report of elder abuse made in that town or community in 2014. Wear purple and help us raise awareness of these devastating and all too common incidents of elder abuse and neglect. Wear purple and help us ensure that our seniors, family members and caregivers all have access to supportive services that help keep seniors safe.

For the next 364 days, we want you to pledge to help your neighbors, your family members and yourself if you suspect abuse or neglect. Whenever you see the purple, doesn’t matter what shade, I want you to think about preventing Elder Abuse.

If you suspect abuse or neglect, contact Adult Protective Services (APS) at 707-565-5940, or call the Ombudsman Program 707-526-4108.