World Elder Awareness Day. Photo/acl.gov

The Prince George’s County Department of Family Services, along with the office of State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks, recognized World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) on June 15 at the Community Hope AME Church at Iverson Mall.

Launched 15 years ago by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations, WEAAD’s primary goal is to provide an opportunity for communities around the world to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons by raising awareness of the social, economic, and demographic processes affecting elder abuse.

Elders in the United States lose an estimated $2.6 billion or more annually from financial abuse and exploitation.

“It is important to raise awareness of the ramifications of elder abuse and to provide ways in which elderly and vulnerable adults can protect themselves,” acting Manager for the Department of Family Services, Aging Services Division Karen Sylvester said in a news release.

For the first time in Prince George’s County, the Office of the State’s Attorney has a prosecutor specifically assigned to handle cases involving elder abuse.

Many cases include financial exploitation of seniors by family members and care givers who drain bank accounts or seek reverse mortgages on homes owned by senior citizens.

“Annually, millions of Americans fall victim to scams and financial exploitation, but according to the National Center on Elder Abuse, women and elders over 65 are most likely to be victimized, many times by people who are close to them and are trusted to take care of them,” Alsobrooks said in a news release.  “Elder abuse can occur anywhere…in the home, in nursing facilities or other institutions. It affects seniors across all socioeconomic groups, cultures and races. We try very hard to educate the community on ways to avoid becoming victims, and we work to prosecute these financial predators.”

The event featured speakers who are experts on problems affecting senior citizens, resource  guides and workshops regarding guardianship, the basics of reverse mortgages, available services to help seniors age in place and Social Security and Medicare fraud.

There is even a personal website option that allows internet users a secure way to do business like providing proof they are receiving Social Security benefits, or making changes to their address or direct deposit information.

For more information and services for older adults, call the Aging and Disability Resource Center at 301-265-8450.  The Prince George’s County Department of Family Services, Aging and Disabilities Resource Center is a single point of entry for individuals in need of current information about opportunities and services available to seniors in Prince George’s County. The program also connects persons with older family members who live outside the County with local service agencies in their communities.

Courtney Jacobs

AFRO Staff Writer