I was in Atlanta for a conference a few months ago and became exposed to a startling realization regarding the abuse of elderly people. This particular seminar was addressing — are you ready for this — the human trafficking of older adults.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation and several other law enforcement agencies were on hand to help expose and educate the senior care industry to this disgusting and deplorable crime. It was nauseating to say the least as we sat there and watched actual, recent news footage from the Atlanta area reporting on elderly citizens who had been kidnapped, chained and housed in basements under wretched living conditions and with little food and drink; while the perpetrators lived off of their pension, Social Security money and other forms of government assistance.
I would not have believed this if I had not seen it with my own eyes.
Usually when we hear the word “trafficking,” we think of bad things such as drugs, work slavery and prostitution, all of which are contemptible. The underlying motive for these hideous crimes, however, is all the same: money!
The seminar detailed how the perpetrator entices elderly persons to come with him or her on promises that would be cared for. The homeless and lonely seem to be the most targeted people for this type of elderly abuse.
One might wonder how someone who is homeless could be a financial benefit to another person. Consider that this person could be eligible for Social Security, food stamps and EBT Access Cards (you can apply for these things online). In addition, all kinds of accounts — cable, electricity, credit cards, etc. — can be opened in the names of these people with no intent to ever pay on these accounts. Factor in the reselling of stolen prescription medications from multiple physicians on top of all this, and one begins to see how a person could accumulate thousands and thousands of dollars a year from the abuse of a handful of innocent elderly people.
It is shameful and despicable, and it is happening all over the United States. Most human-trafficking victims are female and under the age of 18. But there is an alarming increase of older adults being targeted, and elder abuse and exploitation overall is on the rise. Yet, elder abuse is grossly under-reported because vulnerable and older adults who are being abused find it difficult to tell anyone due to shame and fear. What can you do?
There are several groups aligned with the older-adult movement. Two are the National Center on Elder Abuse and the Administration On Aging. Both have excellent resources to help educate and mobilize people into action. One of the best things you can do is to be a volunteer and friend to an elderly person or neighbor. Help out at the local senior center or be a volunteer delivery driver for Meals on Wheels.
Awareness is the key. Prior to my trip to Atlanta, I had no idea this was happening. Today happens to be World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Start today by visiting someone or making a comforting phone call.
You can also join us next Friday on the Train as we promote our own local Elder Abuse Awareness Day from 5:30–8:30 p.m. at the Richmond Hill Station Exchange. We will have entertainment, food, prizes, cool things for the kids, and T-shirts for the first 50 attendees.
Purple is the adopted color for Elder Abuse Awareness, so get your purple on next Friday and join us for this important awareness day.
DeLong is the executive director for The Suites at Station Exchange. Email him at Suites.StationExchange@gmail.com