As Americans, we believe in justice for all. Yet we fail to live up to this promise when we allow older members of our society to be abused or neglected. Older people are vital, contributing members of American society and their maltreatment diminishes all of us.

The proof is in the numbers – more than 10,400 reports of abuse, neglect and/or exploitation in Bexar County alone is concerning. Elder abuse cases are often complex and multi-layered, involving physical, financial, emotional and sexual abuse issues.   

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) was created in 2006 to provide an opportunity for communities around the world to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons. 

The International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse along with the World Health Organization at the United Nations joined together in the effort. The two powerful entities determined that this should be done by raising awareness of the cultural, social, economic and demographic processes affecting abuse and neglect of our elders.

One consistent message will resonate throughout San Antonio and Bexar County for the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day annual event on June 15: Building Strong Supports for Elders, which is the WEAAD theme. Everyone can show their support by wearing purple! Let’s show we are united in making a difference and advocate for elder abuse prevention and intervention programs.   

You might find yourself asking, what else is my community doing to address elder abuse?   Make no mistake – elder abuse is a serious problem that has implications for all of us and we can all do something about it.

That’s where Adult Protective Services (APS) steps in with its mission to protect older adults and persons with disabilities.  But they don’t do this work alone! The agency, part of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, counts on a wide variety of community partners throughout Texas.  

The South Texas APS Community Board, a nonprofit started six years ago, unanimously agreed to support the APS program. Over the years, members have remained focused on addressing elder abuse by creating new strategies, partnerships and initiatives.  

This board quickly zeroed in on this fact and embraced APS’ vision of strengthening a multi-tasked solution: to build innovative partnerships among first responders, judicial, and community partners. Their individual roles will determine long-term the best efforts as to how to address the needs of older adults, so that everyone can age in place safely.   

To reinforce existing elder abuse connections, The South Texas APS Community Board hosted a pre-conference Elder Abuse event in October 2022, sponsored by the San Antonio Area Foundation. The meeting provided the opportunity for leadership from the Bexar County Elder Abuse and Exploitation Task Force and other leaders to network and share knowledge with national and statewide experts.   

There are many steps we can all take to help prevent this underreported problem. Talking about it and raising awareness of the issue, educating ourselves about the signs of elder abuse and knowing how to report it are very good start. 

Remember: Elder abuse is everyone’s business!  

Lisa Senteno serves on the Adult Protective Services Faith-Based & Community Engagement team. She’s also a member of Successfully Aging and Living in San Antonio (SALSA), a coalition of nearly 50 aging-focused nonprofits led by the San Antonio Area Foundation’s Community Engagement and Impact Department.