Elder Justice

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, approximately one in six older adults is affected by elder abuse every year. Elder abuse can take many forms: physical, sexual, emotional and financial abuse, as well as neglect and abandonment.

The incidence of elder abuse in America is so pervasive that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now considers it a major public health problem. And experts believe that with the aging of the nation’s largest generation—baby boomers—the incidence of elder abuse will likely increase as the population of older adults is projected to reach 80.8 million by 2040.

Since their inception, Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) have played a significant role in detecting and preventing elder abuse. According to the 2020 National Survey of Area Agencies on Aging, 69 percent provide at least one service or program designed to address this serious problem. Providing community education and training, launching public awareness campaigns targeting older adults, participating in an elder abuse prevention coalition or multidisciplinary team, and utilizing case management strategies for at-risk or vulnerable older adults are among the most common AAA strategies to combat elder abuse.

Although most AAA elder justice programs address issues associated with elder abuse, AAAs also provide support on a range of other legal issues common among older adults. Legal issues related to guardianship, health and long-term care and public benefit programs are just a few of the many AAAs handle as part of their role in implementing legal services under Title III B of the Older Americans Act.

To elevate and provide a strategic focus for federal support for elder abuse protection, the Elder Justice Act (EJA) was enacted in 2010, after years of work by advocates including USAging and our members. The EJA was established to support the development and implementation of strategies to slow and reverse the rate of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation cases in the United States by strengthening the efforts of state and local agencies, including AAAs. Unfortunately, Congress has yet to fund the Act, making it impossible for systemic change to begin.

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