Residents from all over the community came out and showed their support for local Elders during the town’s World Elder Abuse Awareness Day event that was hosted at the Ingamo Hall Friendship Centre on June 14.
According to organizer Crystal Navratil, the goal of the event is to encourage and promote more discussions surrounding elder abuse.
“Elder abuse does happen. A lot of people don’t realize it’s abuse, and a lot of times it’s not talked about,” said Navratil. “Elders are shy, so this is to raise awareness, to tell Elders that it’s ok to talk, and that there are resources out there that they can turn to.”
A Statistics Canada report from 2013 revealed that more than 2,900 seniors between the ages of 65 to 89 years old had reported instances of family violence to the police.
55 per cent of cases were related to common assault charges, which occurs when an individual intentionally applies or threatens to apply non-consensual force to another person.
“Everything is all behind closed doors and nobody talks about it,” said Navratil. “We’re encouraging people to talk about it and get it out there, to tell the Elders that there’s help out there for them.”
Navratil is part of the Mental Health and Addictions Working Group in Inuvik, whose members created a sub committee to organize the annual event.
“We’re trying to acknowledge elder abuse, raise awareness and let the Elders know that there is help available for them,” she said. “That they’re not alone, that we need to encourage people to talk about it, to take away the stigma off of it.”
She added that a common form of elder abuse that occurs in the community is financial exploitation.
“Elders get their cheque and they have their kids who abuse that,” she said. “Financial is a big one. I want to say mental, like kids guilting them into giving them money.”
The best way to reduce elder abuse, she continued, is to talk about it.
“Address it and try to normalize it so it’s not stigmatized. It’s not something we want in the closet anymore,” she said. “We want to get it out there to stop it from happening, and to tell the Elders that there are people that they can talk to in the community that will help them.”
During the event, there were a few community members who spoke before the Elders and expressed their support for them.
“We appreciate you and our community supports you,” said Mayor Natasha Kulikowski.
Local Elder Winston Moses said in his speech that little respect is given to the Elders of today.
“The words admired, looked up to and respected have been replaced by Elder abuse. It shouldn’t be,” he said. “The Elders passed on values, customs and knowledge. That’s what they have done. Value your Elders and their knowledge.”
He added that the Elders in the community have a “special touch”, and that they only want the best for their families.
“May the last years be the best years. Give that to them,” he said. “If you do – as an individual – the words admired, looked up to and respect for the Elders will be yours.”