The ninth purple lilac bush was planted yesterday in just as many years in advance of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD).

"Today, on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, we gather as a reminder of this deeply concerning issue affecting our global community," said Sharon Moore, guest speaker at the planting at the Serenity labyrinth behind the SLS Centre. "This day holds profound significance as we stand together to raise awareness, offer support, and advocate for the rights and dignity of our older adults."

Elder abuse takes many forms--financial, emotional, physical, sexual, or neglect--and often more than one type of abuse occurs. Sadly, it a complex issue that continues to be often left unreported.

But thanks to heightened awareness created by the Community-Led Elder Abuse Response (CLEAR) that's changing. Those abused are starting to step forward in larger numbers as they start to realize they are not alone, and that help is available.

elder abuse 1Hillary Cornelius Stormon, left, gave the land acknowledgement at the ceremony, emceed by Patti Fisher, of the Big Hill Haven.

"Sometimes there can be a lot of shame and embarrassment when people are experiencing this," explains Hillary Cornelius Stormon, older adults community liaison and programmer for Family and Community Support Services, "so the more we talk about it and normalize this, we can help people feel more comfortable about coming out and sharing their story as well as helping their friends and families recognize the signs and have our community help each other."

The statistics surrounding elder abuse are sobering, points out Moore, who played a large role in helping establish CLEAR. According to the World Health Organization, around one in six older adults worldwide have experienced some form of abuse in the past year, with higher rates for those living in residential care. 

"These numbers represent not just data points but individuals—they are our parents, grandparents, neighbors, and friends," says Moore.

Cochrane has made significant strides since holdings the first lilac bush was planted in the community cenotaph park on WEAAD and a commitment was made to the people of Cochrane that this day will continue to be recognized to shine a light on this issue.

In 2017, the first provincial training was completed. In 2018, CLEAR brought together service providers to address elder abuse comprehensively. It's now evolved into the Cochrane Older Adult Case Collaboration Table and encompasses multiple issues experienced with aging.

elder abuse 2Sharon Moore with Mayor Jeff Genung planting the lilac bush at the Serenity labyrinth.

"As we plant this lilac bush today, let us recommit to ending elder abuse in all its forms," Moore told the gathering. "Let us educate our communities, support victims, and work towards building a society where aging is celebrated and cherished. Cochrane is a special community, and it is a privilege to work among such dedicated individuals. Your continued commitment strengthens our community."

It was the seventh time Mayor Jeff Genung has helped to plant to lilac, each time coming attired in purple in recognition of significance of the day. 

"The more we talk about it, the more it's out there. The purple shirts, the day, the lilac bush, all of it is significant in reminding people that this is an issue, it's real, and it's happening to people in our community," says Mayor Genung. "I have heard that it's working, people are talking about it. Even just myself, I've become more aware of conversations and the language that they're using. It's not always in somebody else's community or someone else's seniors that are dealing with this--it's right here in our backyard."

So, where can you find help? There are several right answers to this.

"We recommend people reach out to Big Hill Haven, that's a great community group that can help people," says Cornelius Stormon. "The police, Alberta Health Services... every door is the right door. Wherever people reach out, we have a coordinated community response where people will connect and people will make sure every door is the right door."

Here are a couple of starting points.

Cochrane and Area - Alberta Elder Abuse Awareness Council (A.E.A.A.C)

HOME | Big Hill Haven

Today, the Jack Tennant Memorial Bridge will be light in purple in recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

purple bridge(file photo)