The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

July 7, 2014

Demographic dilemma

County’s aging, elder abuse stats in state are up

MERCER COUNTY — Mercer County is an aging community.

About 19 percent of the county’s population is over 65 years old, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s 3 percent higher than the state as a whole.

The county’s Agency on Aging has been facing another increase that Director Sam Bellich said the whole state is facing: the reports of elderly abuse.

“The thing that really frosts me is we live in a world where people think it’s okay to take grandma’s inheritance before she’s gone and that’s horrible,” Bellich said.

Gov. Tom Corbett recently proclaimed June as Elder Abuse Awareness Month in Pennsylvania.

His proclamation stated that there were 18,452 reports of physical and emotional abuse, neglect, exploitation and abandonment last year.

The good news is that more reported cases means more victims are speaking out.

Jackie Landfried, direct services supervisor for AWARE, an advocacy group against domestic and sexual violence, said victims can be hesitant to talk about their experiences.

“Especially with older clients we see, they’re not as forthcoming,” she said.

The most common cases Landfried sees involve emotional and verbal abuse from caregivers, who are most often the children of victims. Financial abuse also is frequently the case.

Members have been working diligently to raise awareness of services.

“We’ll go where anybody will let us come talk or anybody will listen,” she said.

AWARE offers counseling support to victims. Landfried said they assisted with 16 cases the first quarter of this year.

“The biggest thing is they’re not alone,” she said. “It’s nothing to be embarrassed about and we’re here to help.”

The Agency on Aging works with AWARE, police and the district attorney in investigating reports of elderly abuse and will intervene if they deem it appropriate.

“It can be a very expensive service to provide, however, it helps the most frail,” Bellich said.

The Agency on Aging takes in about 10 reports every week. Each investigation lasts about 20 days, Bellich said.

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