Elder Justice

According to the Elder Justice Coalition, more than six million older adults fall victim to elder abuse every year, representing roughly one of every ten adults age 60 and older. Elder abuse can take the form of 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 more than 70 million Americans reach the age of 65 and older in the next 15 years.

Since their inception, Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) have played a significant role in detecting and preventing elder abuse. Today, more than 98 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 seniors are among the most common AAA strategies to combat elder abuse.

Although the majority of AAA elder justice programs address issues associated with elder abuse, AAAs also provide support on a range of other legal issues confronting older adults. Legal issues related to guardianship, health and long-term care and public benefit programs are just a few of the many areas handled, as part of AAAs 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 advocacy 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.