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Breaking the silence on seniors abuse

Rhana Datt, the executive director of the Burnaby Multicultural Society, shows some of the resource material on elder abuse the society has produced to Alice Wong, the minister of state for seniors. Wong was at the society to announce $200,000 in funding for seniors abuse awareness programs. - MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER
Rhana Datt, the executive director of the Burnaby Multicultural Society, shows some of the resource material on elder abuse the society has produced to Alice Wong, the minister of state for seniors. Wong was at the society to announce $200,000 in funding for seniors abuse awareness programs.
— image credit: MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER

Seniors suffering abuse will have easier access to the resources they need to break away from it.

But first they have to recognize they’re being abused. That can be especially difficult for immigrant seniors who may be already struggling through cultural and language challenges, said Rhana Datt, the executive director of the Burnaby Multicultural Society.

That’s why his group will be using $200,000 in federal funding announced Wednesday by Alice Wong, the minister of state for seniors, to create resource materials, awareness programs and organize workshops and presentations on elder abuse for the Chinese, Korean and Punjabi communities.

“This funding allows us to raise awareness and promote prevention of elder abuse amongst immigrant communities,” said Datt. “We must allow seniors to live with dignity and respect in a safe environment.

The issue of elder abuse is coming out of the shadows as the seniors population grows, said Datt. But 80 per cent of instances, which can include emotional, physical and financial abuse, as well as neglect, still go unreported.

“We have to be proactive,” said Datt.

The funding, which is spread out over three years, is part of $14 million being spent on similar projects across Canada, said Wong. Those projects will be able to share resources which each other as they develop.

“Not every senior enjoys a quiet, worry-free time,” she said.

Seniors abuse can be committed by family members, friends, neighbours, landlords—anyone in a position of trust. But it often goes unreported because the victim is afraid of retaliation or embarrassment, losing their relationship with the person suspected of abusing them, or they even think it’s their own fault.

It can be especially helpful for an abused senior to be able to connect to another senior, said Dav Rahkra, a volunteer with the multicultural society’s Elder Abuse Awareness Network.

“Seniors helping seniors is more productive,” he said.

And with the number of seniors expected to increase by 30 per cent over the next decade, it’s critical to get the word out about senior abuse to everyone, said Datt.

“We have to send the message that it’s not OK to abuse seniors,” he said.

To reach Burnaby Multicultural Society, call 604-431-4131.

 

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