With Isolation Increasing Elder Abuse During COVID, Organizations Urge Passage of Bill to Strengthen Probes

By AARP NY | June 9, 2021

Legislation That Has Passed Senate Would Strengthen Elder Abuse Investigations; Organizations for the Aging Call for Assembly Passage

ALBANY, N.Y. – As pandemic-fueled social isolation drives a surge in elder abuse and financial exploitation of older New Yorkers, leading organizations for the aging are calling on Speaker Carl Heastie and the State Assembly to pass legislation that would put state elder abuse investigations on a par with child abuse probes.

The bill sponsored by Assembly Member Catalina Cruz (A7634) passed the State Senate under the sponsorship of Senator Roxanne Persaud (S6528) earlier this month.

It would allow the New York State Office for the Aging to further strengthen the ‘Elder Abuse Interventions and Enhanced Multidisciplinary Team’ in law to respond to complex elder abuse cases with representatives of law enforcement, local social services and other professions to respond quickly and effectively to complex cases of elder abuse.

“No older adult should have to fear for their wellbeing and their security,” said AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel. “But the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in widespread isolation of older adults from their loved ones, and unfortunately, that has opened the door to those who would prey on them.”

“The isolation and loneliness experienced by so many older adults during the pandemic exacerbated an already serious situation for older New Yorkers,” said Ann Marie Cook, President/CEO of Lifespan of Greater Rochester, which operates the NYS Elder Abuse Coalition. “Elder abuse thrives in silence and this year we have seen a surge in cases of abuse, scams and financial exploitation. The enhanced multi-disciplinary team model has proven to work and has allowed communities to collectively protect older New Yorkers. I urge the Assembly to pass this bill so that older adults can get the support they need to live free of abuse and mistreatment.”

“Ensuring older New Yorkers have access to services and supports that prevent and mitigate elder abuse is paramount to having age-friendly communities,” said Becky Preve, Executive Director of the Association on Aging in New York State. “Strengthening the multidisciplinary approach to combating elder abuse and exploitation allows for a holistic response to this major issue facing older residents.”

“Throughout the pandemic, we have seen an uptick in reports of elder abuse, raising the alarm for the need to adopt legislation that better responds to cases of abuse,” said Katelyn Andrews, Director of Public Policy of LiveOn NY. “All older adults deserve to age safely and securely across our state, and we must ensure that all elder abuse cases are given the justice that they deserve.”

The World Health Organization recognizes that isolation is a major risk factor for elder abuse, with severe public health repercussions. Elder abuse and exploitation can result not only in physical harm, but can inflict long-lasting psychological and emotional trauma for victims – and devastation to their personal finances.

Nearly 1 in 10 adults aged 60 and older experience some form of elder abuse, according to the Administration for Community Living.

Cases of elder abuse are often complex, requiring intervention in a variety of ways.

While the Elder Abuse Interventions and Enhanced Multidisciplinary Team initiative is not new and has already helped halt cases of elder mistreatment, neglect, and abuse during the pandemic, the program does not have the same legal authority as other multi-disciplinary teams, including those focused on child-abuse.

The legislation before the Assembly would put the initiative into the State’s Elder Law to ensure the teams can continue to perform the important work of intervening in elder abuse cases across New York.

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AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation’s largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.orgwww.aarp.org/espanol or follow @AARP, @AARPenEspanol and @AARPadvocates, @AliadosAdelante on social media.