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By Laura Griffin

If you are reading this, congrats, you are getting older. Although getting older is a part of life and should be a positive experience, it often isn’t. As a matter of fact, our society has created unfortunate barriers for our ageing population, most of them fuelled by ageism.

I joined CNPEA for a 4 months-role as Education Outreach Coordinator this Spring. I went into this with a limited understanding of elder abuse or ageism, but with the goal to learn how to integrate relevant strategies and best practices into my future career in social work, and to gain a pan-Canadian perspective. It quickly became evident to me that elder abuse in our community is rampant and needs more attention. So, what can do we about it? 

1- FIght Ageismat every turn
Ageism encompasses stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination against an individual or a group on the basis of their age. It is entrenched in our society and our lives so deeply that it often goes unnoticed. Ageism towards older adults is reflected in many different ways such as negative language (“senior moment”), inadequate infrastructure (ex: no AC in LTC homes), employment (ex: unfair hiring practices favorizing younger candidates), education (ex: no real support for mature students), investments (ex: limited funding towards elder abuse prevention), and more. Ageism would have you believe that getting older is not a blessing, but rather a loss (of agency, status, meaning, visibility). It would have you believe that aging is something shameful and that grey hair and lines are not beautiful. Growing old is beautiful and a growing number of activists are fighting this stigma so that ageism becomes as unacceptable as other forms of discrimination.

2- Empower communities to take action against elder abuse
Community engagement and collective action are key to push these discussions forward and bring about change. CNPEA is working on a national engagement strategy, to mobilize people across sectors and jurisdictions. For this work, I attended online meetings with interdisciplinary experts that included academics, legal professionals, social workers, retirees, nurses and more, each sharing barriers and successes in their province/territory. Working to prevent elder abuse requires an intersectional look at systemic issues that perpetuate abuse, violence and neglect. We had conversations about ageism but also colonialism, gender equality, privilege, power and control.

Over the past four months, I contributed to work that examined accessibility, the experiences of LGBTQIA+ older adults, and elder abuse affecting people living with dementia. I learned how to create accessible materials for wide audiences, from infographics to webinars. I also wrote blog posts on recent CNPEA activity and ongoing projects (you can read some of them right after this one: Generational Allies & The Future of Aging in Canada 2021 symposium).

Everyone deserves to live a life free from abuse at all stages of their life. We are all getting older. Elder abuse prevention agencies are fighting for a Canada free from abuse and harm, for the older adults of today and tomorrow so we can all enjoy getting older.

I am grateful for this learning opportunity and look forward to applying the principles that I learnt in my own work.

You can follow CNPEA on Twitter or sign up for their newsletter and support CNPEA here

laura profile picLaura Griffin (they/them) is from Newfoundland and working towards their Master of Social Work at Wilfrid Laurier University.
They were hired through the Canada Summer Jobs program (Employment and Social Development Canada).