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Troubling trend in elder abuse reported in Simcoe County

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As seniors navigate life post-pandemic, advocates say they are noticing a troubling trend regarding the rate of senior abuse.

"When I see and hear how people treat their loved ones, these people who have lived for such a long time and have seen so much and done so much and suddenly are treated so poorly, it breaks my heart," said Pauline Leuning, chair of the Simcoe County Prevention of Senior Abuse Network.

Leading a senior abuse prevention network in Simcoe County, Leuning has spent years helping seniors throughout the region recognize and report abuse; however, recently, she said advocates report calls for support have nearly tripled since the pandemic.

"During COVID, we saw an increase of abuse in all its different forms, and that has not decreased, and we know that," said Leuning.

Advocates with the Elder Abuse Prevention Association of Ontario report a similar situation.

"It's up to about 10 per cent of older adults that experience some kind of elder abuse, so that could be emotional abuse and financial abuse, sexual abuse and neglect, so it takes all forms," said Raeann Rideout, director of Elder Abuse Prevention Ontario.

While advocates say some cases are reported, with over 150,000 residents over 65 calling Simcoe County home, local organizations and the Barrie Police Service say more needs to be done to track elder abuse.

"Our research studies indicate that about 23 to 25 individuals don't come forward to seek help or assistance, so we know that number is extremely underreported," said Rideout.

"Of course, Barrie is not immune to what is going on in the bigger world, and we really need to know the extent of the problem; if people are not reporting, then we don't know where to target our resources," said Barrie Police Services Const. Julie Reynolds.

Along with increased reporting, Leuning also calls for increased provincial funding for programs that would support and monitor elder abuse in Ontario; however, she is encouraging those who may be experiencing or witnessing elder abuse to contact the 24-hour Elder Abuse Prevention Network.

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