Harrisburg, PA – Today, Governor Wolf’s cabinet secretaries stood with advocates in the state Capitol Rotunda in support of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
Secretary of Aging Teresa Osborne, Secretary of Banking and Securities Robin Wiessmann, Pennsylvania State Police Lieutenant Colonel Stephen A. Bucar, Co-Chair of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Advisory Council on Elder Justice Zygmont Pines, and the Attorney General’s Director of Elder Protection Unit David Shallcross gathered to demonstrate unity against elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
“One of the most important jobs of government is protecting older Pennsylvanians,” Governor Wolf said. “I am proud that my administration stands united against elder abuse and is working tirelessly to ensure seniors are protected and supported across the commonwealth.”
“Elder abuse is an issue that impacts the health and human rights of older Pennsylvanians and seniors around the globe,” said Secretary of Aging Teresa Osborne. “We all have a stake in this matter, and a world free of elder abuse can only be realized when we choose to recognize and report it.”
Abuse can take many forms, including physical, sexual, emotional, financial, and can be a result of abandonment, caregiver neglect, or self-neglect. Signs of abuse can include unexplained bruises, burns or broken bones, lack of basic hygiene, access to adequate food, clean or appropriate clothing, unexplained weight loss, social isolation, changes in banking habits, or giving away assets without an apparent reason.
In fiscal year 2015-16, over 34,500 reports of suspected abuse were received. Of those reports, over 24,00 were for adults 60 years of age or older, which represents an increase of 21.3% from the previous year. As the senior population and the number of abuse reports increases, the state faces the challenge of meeting the rising demand for protective services and has been working collaboratively to address the issue.
“We are very concerned about an abuse of our senior citizens that often goes unreported: elder financial abuse. Make no mistake: financial fraud committed against senior citizens is a form of elder abuse,” said Secretary of Banking and Securities Robin L. Wiessmann. “Together with our partners in the public and private sectors, we are working to help ensure that senior citizens can enjoy their retirement years with a basic sense of financial security.”
In addition to working with the Department of Banking and Securities, the Department of Aging has been collaborating with Pennsylvania State Police, the Office of the Attorney General, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Advisory Council on Elder Justice to increase coordination and training on elder abuse.
“The Pennsylvania State Police continues to work closely with our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners to fight elder abuse in all of its forms,” said Lieutenant Colonel Stephen A. Bucar. “We also ask all Pennsylvanians to join us by reaching out to their vulnerable neighbors, friends, and family members. Victims of elder abuse are often isolated. By regularly checking in with the older adults in our lives, we can better identify and report signs of abuse.”
If you suspect elder abuse, report it by calling the 24-hour statewide abuse hotline at 1-800-490-8505. Pennsylvania law protects those who report suspected abuse from retaliation and civil or criminal liability; all calls are free and confidential.
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is observed annually, on June 15, as the day for the entire world to focus its’ attention on protecting and preventing seniors from abuse.
For information on the Department of Aging, visit www.aging.pa.gov. For information on the Department of Banking and Securities, visit www.dobs.pa.gov. For information on the Pennsylvania State Police, visit www.psp.pa.gov.