LUMBERTON — Advocates and lawmakers were among the people who stepped forward Friday to address the plight of abused and vulnerable older people and to speak about the dangers they face.
The fourth annual Elder Abuse Awareness program, which was held the Robeson County Department of Social Services, was to highlight what is often a family’s dirty little secret.
“We love the elders, and if it was not for them we would not be here,” said Teresa Hargett, DSS Adult Services program manager.
According to the Administration of Community Living, an estimated 5 million older adults are abused, neglected, or exploited each year. Older Americans lose an estimated $2.6 billion or more annually to elder financial abuse and exploitation. This is money that could be used to pay for basic needs, such as housing, food, and medical care. It is estimated that only one in five of these crimes are discovered.
According to the federal Census Bureau, the elderly population will more than double to 80 million by the year 2050, when as many as one in five Americans could be elderly. Most of this growth should occur between 2010 and 2030, when members of the “baby boom” generation enter their elderly years.
Velvet Nixon, director of the county Department of Social Services, told attendees that her department will be addressing concerns of the elders in the community and is ready to help those being abused and make them more aware of the dangers they face.
Nixon said the 2011 Census had subgroups that divided the ages of elders. From 65 to 74 years of age is considered “young,” 75-84 years is considered “almost old,: and 85 years is considered “blessed.”
State Rep. Garland Pierce, a Democrat from Wagram, was the event’s keynote speaker. He advocated for better care of the community’s elders and spoke of special funding planned for senior citizens in Robeson County.
One of the elders in the crowd was Dorothy Clark, a 104-year-old resident of Prather’s Family Care Home in Red Springs. Clark was accompanied by her caretaker of six years, Linda Cooper, who said she loves caring for Clark.
“Life is fine,” Clark said when asked about being 104 years old.
Kistler Buie, a resident of Cromarties Rest Home in St. Pauls, was at the event with his caretaker and shared many words of thanks for the program.
“The Lord loves you,” Buie said.
When senior citizens arrived at the program, they were greeted by DSS employees dressed in purple. Each attendee was given a bouquet of flowers and a bag of goodies, courtesy of David Richardson, of the Lumber River Council of Governments, and Vonta Leach, a former NFL player.
Door prizes appropriate for various living situations were given to the elderly attendees. Mary Cole was one of the winners, and said she was excited about winning.
“I usually don’t win anything,” she said.
Raymond Cummings, chairman of the Robeson County Board of Commissioners, also spoke.
“Thank you for caring and bringing attention to the needs and concerns of the elders in the community and giving them a voice because they deserve to have one,” he said.
Cummings also led a moment of silence in honor of Patrick Pait, the county attorney who died Sunday in a traffic accident in Fayetteville. The moment of silence was the only break in a program to bring attention to the needs and concerns of the county’s elderly residents.
“Our elderly population is often forgotten about, we need to do more to show our appreciation to them,” Hargett said.
Elder Abuse Awareness Day is celebrated every year on June 15 in the United States. The United Nations has designated June 15 as World Elder Abuse Day.
Michelle Andujar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.