Elder Services of Worcester Area, Inc. (ESWA), is commemorating World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) by educating Central Massachusetts communities about the very real elder abuse epidemic town by town, including the town of Auburn.

Ten thousand people every day turn 65 in the US alone. That trend is going to continue for the next 20 years. Our demographics are shifting, and we will soon have more elder people in the US than ever before. At the same time that the population is growing, we know that a startling number of elders face abusive conditions. Every year an estimated 5 million, or 1 in 10, older Americans are victims of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation. And that’s only part of the picture: Experts believe that for every case of elder abuse or neglect reported, as many as 23.5 cases go unreported.

Elder abuse refers to intentional or neglectful acts by a caregiver or “trusted” individual that lead to, or may lead to, harm of a vulnerable elder. In Massachusetts physical abuse; neglect by a caregiver; emotional abuse; financial abuse and exploitation; sexual abuse and self-neglect are considered forms of elder abuse. Unfortunately, most cases of elder abuse go undetected.

Here in Greater Worcester ESWA received 2,252 reports of elder abuse in fiscal year 2015 and that figure will have reached a local record high by the end of fiscal year 2016.

What can you do locally to help fight elder abuse? Don’t assume that someone has already reported a suspicious situation. When receiving a report ESWA’S Protective Services Unit will ask what you observed, who was involved, and who they can contact to learn more. You do not need to prove that abuse is occurring; it is up to the professionals investigate the suspicions. Reporters names by law, are kept confidential.

If you need to report a case of elder abuse then you should call the Protective Services Unit of ESWA at 508-852-3205 between 8:00 A.M. and 5:00 P.M., Monday through Friday or statewide 24-hour hotline at 1-800-922-2275. ESWA is designated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to receive reports of elder abuse for your area.

WEAAD serves as a call to action for individuals, organizations, and communities to raise awareness about abuse, neglect, and exploitation of elders. The International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations launched the first World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15, 2006, in an effort to unite communities around the world in raising awareness about elder abuse. WEAAD supports the UN’s International Plan of Action acknowledging the significance of elder abuse as a public health and human rights issue.

Building on over 40 years of experience, Elder Services of Worcester Area, Inc. is an expert in community- based, long term care. The Protective Services Unit serves elders in the towns Auburn, Barre, Boylston, Grafton, Hardwick, Holden, Hudson, Leicester, Marlboro, Millbury, New Braintree, Northboro, Oakham, Paxton, Rutland, Shrewsbury, Southboro, Westboro, West Boylston and Worcester.

For more information contact Elder Services’ Protective Services Unit at 508-852-3205 or visit www.eswa.org