Pennsylvania now has the nation’s fourth-largest population of senior citizens, with around 20% of those seniors over the age of 60. That’s almost 3 million Pennsylvanians, and the number is growing steadily. Statistics suggest that around 150,000 of our state’s seniors currently reside full-time in assisted living or nursing homes. Clearly, how and where we care for our elderly in Pennsylvania is an urgent issue in need of serious attention.
Millions of Elderly Americans Suffer Abuse Each Year
Many assisted living facilities and nursing homes uphold excellent standards of care. But there are exceptions. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), elder abuse and neglect represents a major public health hazard. In a recent report, the center estimated that between two and five million American senior citizens will experience some form of elder abuse. The range of the estimate is so broad for the alarming reason that many of those who suffer abuse are either afraid to or mentally or physically incapable of reporting it. These poor souls suffer in silence.
Awareness of elder care issues and patterns of abuse is increasing, however, as organizations like the NCEA and, locally, the Pennsylvania Elder Law Task Force and the Philadelphia Corporation for the Aging get the word out through media outlets and public forums and into our collective consciousness. The more we're thinking about elder abuse, the more likely we are to recognize the signs that it's happening to our loved ones.
Besides creating specific laws to protect older Americans, Pennsylvanians, and Philadelphians from abuse, and prosecuting those guilty of abusing the elderly and infirm, these organizations believe that raising the issue’s profile and speaking transparently about it are the best ways to combat elder abuse. We need a national and local conversation about elder abuse to make a difference. So please join the discussion any way you can. If our elders hadn’t taken care of us, we wouldn’t be here today; now it’s our turn to take care of them.