Protecting seniors

Elder abuse is one of the most horrendous crimes plaguing society today. The thought that many seniors are abused in a number of ways – physically, financially, psychologically, emotionally – and that few of these situations are ever reported, is heartbreaking.

Seniors deserve our care and respect. They’ve worked hard through their lives and it’s unimaginable that some of them are forced to endure their final years in fear. They are often facing so many challenges as it is – illness, increasing frailty, isolation, not to mention the deaths of long-time close friends. It’s a vulnerable season of life, and a time when they should feel safe, valued and protected.

Statistics show that some 24,000 older adults in Alberta have suffered some form of abuse with more than 500 of those people living in Red Deer. These numbers only represent reported cases.

June 15 was World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, and it was the perfect time to announce a very important new initiative in Red Deer and Central Alberta that will see college students, seniors, caregivers, professionals and agencies work together to provide strategies to combat elder abuse.

The Alberta Generations Project, a three-year program that is federally funded, will be led mainly by the Golden Circle Seniors’ Resource Centre and Family Services of Central Alberta.

A tremendous aspect of The Alberta Generations Project is what’s called the Home Share project. This is where college students connect with local seniors and move into their homes for the duration of their studies. Both parties can benefit greatly, as the students benefit from reasonable rents and the seniors have someone around the house to lend a hand practically. Of course, the extra income is an added benefit as well.

But perhaps the greatest thing about the Home Share project is that it simply brings people together. When students are new to the City, they can find it an overwhelming experience as they settle into their routines. Seniors living alone may find their situations nearly too much to bear, and perhaps would gladly welcome someone into their home.

With their busy schedules, the students obviously wouldn’t be around the house too much, but just knowing they will be home at some point could serve as a wonderful comfort to a senior – particularly if they are uncomfortable during the evening and nighttime hours.

Our North American culture seems driven on pushing independence. People find themselves often living alone, and unhappily, all in the name of ‘making it on their own’ or whatever. In other countries, the emphasis is much more about belonging to a community of family and/or friends.

The Home Safe project offers a superb, practical arrangement. Hopefully many local seniors – and students returning to Red Deer this fall – will take advantage of such an excellent and helpful opportunity.