City of Vancouver Declares June 15th World Elder Abuse Awareness Day at Gordon Neighbourhood House Luncheon

IMG_20150615_132724Neighbourhood Small Grant Organizing Team Member Peggy Casey, With Gordon Neighbourhood House Seniors Advocate Grace Hann.

Elder abuse is a global issue which affects millions of older persons around the world, including in our community.

This year several West End seniors hosted a luncheon to raise awareness about this prevalent issue.

Audrey Richards is a regular in the Seniors’ Lounge at Gordon Neighbourhood House and has been a longtime volunteer. “Anybody who has worked with Seniors will tell you that senior abuse is common, and that many seniors are abused mentally, physically, and emotionally,” noted Richards. “You wouldn’t believe the horror stories we have heard.”

“Most of the abuse that seniors experience doesn’t get reported,” explained Richards, “we are from a generation that is not comfortable disclosing our problems, and many victims are embarrassed or ashamed. We want people to know that this can happen to anyone.”

The organizers hoped that the event would empower seniors to talk about the cause, and prevent future occurrences by encouraging discussion and reporting.

The group started raising awareness about elder abuse 4 years ago when Tanya Truelsen started making purple ribbons. The UN has declared June 15th World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, and many wear purple ribbons to support the opposition to the abuse and suffering. Since then, Tanya and the group have made over 12,000 ribbons.

This year the Seniors aimed to raise more awareness, and connect with others working to eliminate elder abuse in the community. To do this they applied for a Vancouver Foundation Neighbourhood Small Grant to host a luncheon at Gordon Neighbourhood House.

The Neighbourhood Small Grants program is unique in the country as it awards small grants for resident-led projects within their community. The hope is that these projects will encourage connection amongst residents, which in turn will make communities more connected, healthy, and resilient. The grant paid for the room rental, food, entertainment, and ribbons.

“We decided to host a luncheon as it is an effective way to reach people who might not feel comfortable talking about elder abuse, or may not go for help at a counselling office,” explained Project Leader Heidi McDonell. Peggy Casey, who helped organize the event, remarked “a lunch is very accessible, and a great way to interact with others.”

The luncheon took place on June 15th, and attracted over 50 local residents and community partners, including City Councillor George Affleck, and West End MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert. Affleck represented the City of Vancouver, and read a proclamation declaring June 15th, 2015 as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day in Vancouver.

MLA for Vancouver-West End/Coal Harbour Spencer Chandra Herbert with attendees at the World Elders Abuse Awareness Day Luncheon. 

The event raised awareness not only for residents, but staff at Gordon Neighbourhood House as well. Malik Jama, the Office Administrator remarked that, “Seniors are an important part of our community, and a source of wisdom and experience. This event increased my level of awareness of elder abuse.”

After the event, the senior organizers were overwhelmingly positive about the turnout and result of the luncheon.

“This event brought together people who are working to eradicate elder abuse for the very first time in a social setting,” noted Heidi McDonell. “It was great to see everyone dedicated to this issue in one room. It was very inspirational knowing that we are not alone and are all working together, the workload immediately felt lifted.”

By Jim Balakshin