Mary’s son wanted to dump her in a “depressing, terrible” place to live. He wouldn’t listen to what Mary wanted.
Fortunately, she found shelter from the abuse.
And “Herbie” – not his real name – , 64, incapacitated and unable to work since a serious car accident at 23, had his life savings drained by a younger wife. He, too, found shelter from the abuse.
Calling elder abuse “the silent epidemic among us,” state Sen. Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx-Westchester) released a report citing more than 34,000 cases of abuse in New York State in 2008.
At the same time, Klein called on the Assembly to pass his elder abuse tracking and reporting bill, which passed the Senate 56 to 0 in July.
Although the term has been in use for several years now, there is no clear definition of elder abuse, and no clear consensus on at what age people become “elderly.”
The abuse itself, according to Klein’s report, can take the form of physical, sexual, and financial exploitation, as in Herbie’s case; emotional abuse, as in Mary’s, or neglect and abandonment.
Currently, there are seven agencies in New York that track elder abuse in some manner. Klein’s bill would have all tracking go through the state Office of Children and Family Services, which umbrellas the city’s Adult Protective Services Program.
“At this point in our older citizens’ lives, we should be saying thank you for what they’ve done,” Klein said at a press conference at the Hebrew Home for the Aged in Riverdale.
Instead, the report reveals that an alarming 74% of elder abuse is at the hand of a family member.
The shelter where Herbie and Mary live is the Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Center for Elder Abuse Prevention at the Hebrew Home, the first of its kind in New York and one of only two such shelters in the state for elderly victims of abuse.
The shelter’s director, Joy Solomon, pointed out that the justice system is not friendly to elder-abuse cases by its very nature: long waits and hard seats.
The new report, she said, puts a spotlight on elder abuse – “It is like where domestic violence was 15 years ago.”
Klein’s history with this issue goes back to his work on the subcommittee on crimes against the elderly and scams targeting the elderly, uncovered during the passage of the Do Not Call registry law.
“We can’t begin to crack down until we know what the problem is,” he said, explaining what the bill will do.”We have to codify first, then educate, then criminalize.”