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Letter to the Editor

Safeguarding elder Alaskans

To the editor: June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. On that day, communities in the United States and all over the world will sponsor events to highlight solutions to this social challenge.

The state of Alaska Long-Term Care Ombudsman, Division of Senior and Disabilities Services, AARP-Alaska and the Alaska Commission on Aging are proud to participate in this conversation and will host trainings on elder abuse awareness and prevention. Our goal is to protect the health, safety, welfare and rights of seniors in Alaska.

Currently, 91,281 elders age 65 and older live in Alaska. According to the data from the Administration on Aging, Alaska is the most rapidly aging state in the United States. The number of seniors in Alaska will continue to increase over the next decade. It is important that elders in Alaska have the support in place to age well wherever they choose to live.

As Americans, we believe in justice for all, yet older members of our society are abused or neglected each day across this country. Just as we have confronted and addressed the social issues of child abuse and domestic violence, so too can we find solutions to address issues like elder abuse, which also threatens the well-being of our community. Societal norms and practices make it hard for elders to stay involved with and connected to our communities as they age. As a result, elders are more likely to experience social isolation, which increases the likelihood of abuse and neglect. We can design stronger societal supports to keep elders connected and protect them from abuse, whether financial, emotional, physical or sexual. When we address a root cause, like social isolation, we also make it less likely that people will become neglected. Elders who are socially connected and protected from harm are less likely to be hospitalized, less likely to go into nursing homes and less likely to die.

We can and must create healthier and safer living environments for older adults. To learn more, visit ncea.acl.gov or call the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 to explore local services and support.

Stephanie Wheeler, state of Alaska Long Term Care Ombudsman Program

John Lee, state of Alaska Division of Senior and Disabilities Services-Adult Protective Services

Lisa Morley, Alaska Commission on Aging

Teresa Holt, AARP-Alaska

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