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Prevention is the solution

Over 100 participants gather to discuss elder abuse
Adrian Lysenko
Northern News Services
Published Friday, December 3, 2010

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - Finding the best solution to deal with elder abuse brought together more than 100 people to a Yellowknife symposium this week.

NNSL photo/graphic

Barb Hood, executive director of the NWT Seniors' Society, was a speaker at a symposium about elder abuse at the Explorer Hotel on Tuesday. - Adrian Lysenko/NNSL photo

Seniors, caregivers, service providers, policy makers, academics, community members, and regional and territorial leaders were among those who attended the Building Networks to Prevent Elder Abuse symposium.

"It's absolutely imperative that we don't work on a crisis module, that we work on a prevention model," said Barb Hood, executive director of the Northwest Territories Senior Society.

Hood was one of the presenters at the event held on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Explorer Hotel.

The symposium is the second phase of the senior society's Building Networks on the Abuse of Older Adults Project. Part of the first phase of the project was a survey showing 70 per cent of elders surveyed saying elder abuse is a problem in their community.

"For the RCMP this is a serious issue," said RCMP Cpl. Shawn King during his presentation. "We also believe that it is under-reported to us as police."

Elder abuse is a complex issue to deal with because a lot of times the abuser is a family member and the victim doesn't identify what is happening to them as abuse, according to King.

"Elder abuse comes in many forms," said Terry Villeneuve, president of the NWT Native Women's Association who attended the symposium. "Verbal abuse sometimes hurts more than the physical."

She said verbal abuse is not always reported because it leaves no visible physical damage.

"I've experienced it myself," said Villeneuve. "Abuse has been hurled at me personally."

She hopes that in the future more cases of abuse will be reported.

"It's just like residential school," said Villeneuve. "Nobody would talk about it and now people are starting to voice it and get it out of their system."

As the generations get older she wants elder abuse to not exist anymore.

"In our traditional lifestyle we were brought up to respect the elders," said Villeneuve. "Anyone that is older than us we were to treat them with respect and teach our children to do the same."

Another goal of the symposium was to develop regional and community support networks to address the issue of elder abuse in the territory.

"If we take elders and put them together and talk about this and raise the awareness then we're definitely playing the big role that future generations know about this and it becomes less of an

issue for the individual," said Hood.

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