By Stephanie Thurrott
Abuse is traumatic and devastating for people of all ages. And older adults can find it especially challenging to connect with the support they need to escape violence. That’s why, in 2005 in New York City, The Weinberg Center opened its doors to those 60 and over who need a safe place to go to escape elder abuse.
“Older people don’t necessarily feel that a lot of the domestic violence services and service providers are for them. They don’t necessarily feel like they could go to a traditional domestic violence shelter or a family justice center,” says Joy Solomon, the director and managing attorney of the Weinberg Center.
While traditional shelters may, in fact, offer services and support for older people, when senior survivors see childcare centers and posters about young families there, they may perceive that the services are not for them.
Barriers to Getting Help
For older people, other factors may complicate their ability to get help for abuse. They may have to deal with situations and concerns that often are not issues for younger people, such as the following.
- Older People May Have Faced Abuse for Years
Older people may have experienced a lifetime of abuse, which has worn them down. “Maybe they were staying for the kids. Their inner resources, external resources, and access to resources diminish over time, especially if they don’t feel like the system is accessible or there for them,” Solomon says.
2. Medical Conditions That Complicate Things
Older people may suffer from medical conditions that make it difficult for them to recognize and report their abuse. Cognitive impairment, dementia and the effects of taking or not taking medication can affect older people in complicated ways.
“I’m an advocate for older people to have the right to engage in healthy sexuality. A person who has a diagnosis of dementia can consent. But we need to be making sure we are protective of a person who is impaired,” Solomon says.