Elder abuse

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To encourage Congress to pass the "Elder Justice Act," a video documentary chronicling elder abuse was shown on October 19 on Capitol Hill.  Among other heart-wrenching accounts, the documentary told of Vicki Bastion, aged 92, of Hayward, California, who installed a security gate inside her home to protect her and her few remaining valuables from her grandson and his gang-related friends.

The video chronicled Betty Beckle's story, of being beaten by her daughter. It recounted how Bob Lee's father was victimized by a paid caregiver ("Elder Abuse Victims, Survivors and Advocates Tell Their Stories in Campaign Documentary", PRNewswire-USNewswire, October 19, 2009).

Elder abuse is a terrible scourge on society. It can take many forms. And, the victims can be rich or poor. But often the victims are aged, elderly widows – the most vulnerable of our society.

While often those with modest means are mistreated, the recent, high-profile conviction of New York socialite Brooke Astor's son "of defrauding his mother's $200 million fortune, as she struggled in her last years with Alzheimer's disease" (Wall Street Journal, October 9, 2009), demonstrates how even the very rich can be victimized.

Around the world, elder abuse is a growing problem. Some statistics about elder abuse in the U.S. compiled from www.elderjusticenow.org are:

  • At least one in nine Americans over the age of 60 have experienced some form of abuse
  • The typical victim of elder abuse is a woman over 75 who lives alone
  • Some 14,000 allegations of abuse, neglect or gross negligence are reported in nursing homes

However, according to a study by King's College London and the National Centre for Social Research, the situation in the U.K. is similarly appalling:

  • About 342,400 people aged 66 and over experience mistreatment
  • The predominant type of mistreatment is neglect, followed by financial, psychological and physical abuse
  • Elderly women were more than three times more likely to report mistreatment than elderly men

Neglect and abuse of the elderly is a disgusting and revolting plague. And sadly, demands on society and government to provide for a rapidly growing older population will likely increase … and remain unmet, in the years to come. Chinaview.cn reports 9.4 million disabled elderly people living in China (October 9, 2009). And the U.S. Census Bureau reports that those aged 65 years and over will increase from an estimated 40,229,000 in 2010 to an estimated 46,837,000 by 2015 (www.census.gov, "The 2009 Statistical Abstract").

As Christians, we are admonished to not only esteem, protect, and provide for the elderly, but also to "defend the fatherless" and "plead for the widow" (Isaiah 1:17). In fact, God considers care and respect of the widow and the elderly a primary hallmark of pure religion (James 1:27). Further, 1 Timothy 5:4 instructs us that "if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God" (NIV). And, v. 8 is a shameful indictment of those who claim to be Christian, but do not caringly provide for their relatives (including their elderly parents and grandparents) as having denied the faith, and being worse than unbelievers.

The Eternal's care and concern for the vulnerable in society, and specifically for the elderly, the aged widow, and the fatherless, has been expressed since ancient times (Deuteronomy 24:19; Proverbs 15:25; Jeremiah 22:3), and His promise that the "old men and old women" will enjoy peace, safety and honor during Christ's coming Millennial rule on this earth is clear (Zechariah 8:4).

Thankfully, in Christ's coming Kingdom, all nations and all people – young and old – will finally experience Godly government, peace, safety and abundance. To learn more about the wonderful coming Kingdom of God, please read the booklet: The World Ahead: What Will It be Like? and watch "A New World Is Coming."

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