Our community elder abuse prevention coalitions are comprised of members who work with and care about older adults in their community. As a regular feature of this blog, we plan to highlight members who have committed their knowledge, passion, skills, and time to protect older adults in their community.
L to R: Lillyana Hebbert (FriendshipWorks), Margaret Noce (Tree of Life), Cynthia Wilkerson (Little Brothers-Friends of the Elderly)
Lillyana Hebbert: I’m the Program Director for FriendshipWorks neighborhood office in Jamaica Plain. We provide free services in Spanish and English to elders age 60 and over to help eliminate elder isolation. FriendshipWorks is one of the founding members and also co-chairs the JP/Egleston Square Elder Care Network.
Margaret Noce: I’m the coordinator of the Jamaica Plain Coalition: Tree of Life/Arbol De Vida we work on issues involving Family Support, Public Health and service to seniors. The JPC: Tree of Life is a founding member and a co-chair of the JP/Egleston Elder Care Network.
Cynthia Wilkerson: I’m the Program Manager at Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly. We work with Boston residents who are 70+. Our office is in Jamaica Plain and we’re members of the Jamaica Plain/Egleston Square Elder Care Network.
Question – As aging network professionals, what drew you to focus on elder abuse prevention?
Many of us provide direct service or work with staff who provide direct service to elders. We hear their stories and know that elder abuse is very real–but sometimes difficult to identify or talk about. We wanted to better understand the issue so we can better serve our community–and we want to help educate community members so we can tackle this complicated challenge together. Every year the JP Elder Care Network addresses topics that are important to service providers and elders. Last year the group agreed that the topic of financial abuse was a growing concern and chose to address this through a number of workshops to educate providers who will in turn educate the community.
Question – Can you talk about your Jamaica Plain providers group and why the group decided to focus on elder abuse issues?
The Jamaica Plain/Egleston Square Elder Network has been in existence for 12 years. We are a group of elder service providers serving Jamaica Plain residents and we gather to share resources and support each other’s work. In 2010, we hosted a community meeting, attended by more than 60 older adults from Jamaica Plain and Egleston Sq to provide information, raise awareness, identify health concerns and develop possible solutions. The top concern was transportation access. In 2016 the topic is elder abuse prevention.
Question – what do you think the best methods are to prevent elder abuse?
We are beginning with the premise that education and community involvement will help spread the word that elder abuse exists in many forms throughout our neighborhood. Sometimes elders are embarrassed or ashamed to talk about abuse or exploitation and sometimes those working with elders miss signs of abuse because of a lack of education. We want to raise awareness as we did with the transportation project that helped bring our network and our communities together and we wanted to find a new area to help focus our efforts and discussion. When we learned about the elder abuse prevention coalitions that several communities near Boston have formed, we decided to explore how we as providers and community members could educate and organize around elder abuse and remind everyone that abuse–whether physical, emotional, sexual, or financial–is not the fault of the victim and not something that has to be hidden. We want to help people bring it out into the light of day so we can address it and, ultimately, help prevent it.
Question: What are your next steps?
After a series of a half dozen workshops on various elder abuse topics, the group will work with the community to bring the information to elders. In the Fall, we will commence a series of community meetings to inform elders and caretakers of the many facets of abuse. This work will be done with Congregations and other community organizations.