Today is being observed as Elder Abuse Awareness Day. In 2012, the Canadian organizations dealing with older person issues began pushing for an Elder Abuse Awareness Day, a day set aside specifically to raise awareness about elder abuse and to create opportunities to network with other departments that address the issue. Last year, the UN passed a resolution declaring June 15th as International Day of Awareness of Elder Abuse. Around the world, 6 % of older persons experience some form of abuse. In Belize, the statistics are harder to come by, according to Executive Director of National Council on Ageing, Ix-Chel Poot.
Ix-Chel Poot, Executive Director, National Council on Ageing: We do lack a lot of baseline data about the prevalence of eldre abuse, and the only way we can collect this information is if people contact us and let us know of older persons that they know of who are in vulnerable situations so that we can begin to respond and see exactly where our system needs to go to protect our elderly.
Shasta Wade, Interviewer: So far have you collected any information in Belize in relation to elder abuse happening in our country.
Ix-Chel Poot, Executive Director, National Council on Ageing: We get, I can’t give you statistics. What we get are case by case basis. We’ve had cases of older persons who have been physically abused and need to removed from their home. We’ve had mostly, quite honestly, cases of persons who have been swindled out of their assets or their money; people who have been victims of financial abuse. Their pensions are taken from them by family members, their land is taken from them by family members. I know recently we had a case brought to the council about somebody who entered into a marriage and that spouse took their assets as their health declined. So that person is left in a very vulnerable situation with no assets now and the spouse is unwilling to care for that person. There’s no real legal precedent to force someone to take care of someone else. So those are the basic kind of abuse situations that we will get at the council; and we put them together, we address them as best as we can, we network with our partners, of course with the Department of Human Services and of course with the police where we can get the intervention to come in and protect the vulnerable older people.
The National Council on Ageing is observing the Elder Abuse Awareness day through its ongoing One Action Good s Drive. Poot tells us more.
Ix-Chel Poot, Executive Director, National Council on Ageing: For elder abuse awareness day here, we’ve been doing an activity from last year that we continue this year which is a One Action’s Goods Drive. We ask the businesses, communities to donate to the council a pack of adult papers, a bottle of insure or a bar of soap. We create packs out of these donations and we distribute them to vulnerable older persons especially in rural communities that have issues with purchasing proper hygiene materials and nutritional security. So that’s something that we have ongoing. Viewers can contact us at the National Council of Ageing to make donations, because although we bring the drive to an end at the end of June, we collect throughout the year and we donate as people become available.
Goods can be dropped off at participating stores in Belmopan, namely Brodies and Courts. For this year’s campaign, National Council on ageing is extending activities into July with a series of legal clinics with the Attorney General’s office for older persons.
Ix-Chel Poot, Executive Director, National Council on Ageing: We will be holding sessions on creating wills. What is a will, how does it function, where is it stored? That will be a one day workshop, it will be happening in Belmopan on the 17th of July. In Belize on the 20th of July and in Dangriga on the 25th of July. And then we’ll be looking at including the other districts that we’ve missed throught the year. Many times elder abuse is something that we don’t consider because we mostly consider abuse to be mostly physical you know. Like somebody has been hit, somebody has been physically hurt. But there’s also neglecting of older persons which is a big area of concern for us that older people are left on their own, their needs are not met or that they are restricted from doing things that they would like to do. Things as simple as them not being able to go and worship where they would like to worship because they’re physically unable and nobody takes the time to take them or the family doesn’t see it important so doesn’t take them.
Elder Abuse Awareness Day is being celebrated under the theme “One Person, One Action, One Nation United Against Elder Abuse.”