A Joyful Picnic with a Sombre Message

On Tuesday June 13, 2023, Sorrento Retreat and Conference Centre welcomed 75 guests at the first annual “Celebrating Seniors” picnic, hosted by the South Shuswap Community Response Network . Tables filled with delicious picnic goodies, classic lawn games and a medley of old favourite songs sung joyfully by the Shuswap Singers set a mood of fun and friendship. Two gorgeous and delicious cakes, specially decorated by the talented Celine of Celine’s were happily shared until only crumbs remained.

Even so, the festive feeling was tinged by the sombre and very important reason folks gathered – to raise awareness about the millions of older adults who experience elder abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation. Information on local supports was offered by half a dozen service providers from the South Shuswap and Salmon Arm.

An informative and thought-provoking workshop on “Keeping Seniors Safe” was a great way to start the day. Then after enjoying tasty food, a short presentation and some door prizes, folks gathered around Ralph McBryan, an Elder of the Little Shuswap Lake band who shared compelling stories of animals, mountains, rivers and the power of family love.

One senior abused is one too many. And today, while celebrating our seniors and sharing laughter with friends, those who attended left a little more empowered. And that’s a great thing.

Human Rights Don’t Get Old

The basic human rights of older Canadians are being challenged and undercut every day.  It is estimated that 1 in 6 seniors globally experience elder abuse. World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) in partnership with the World Health Organization was declared at the United Nations. Every year on June 15, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) is commemorated in Canada and worldwide. Through WEAAD, we raise awareness about the millions of older adults who experience elder abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation.

The purpose of WEAAD is to provide an opportunity for communities around the world to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons by raising awareness of the cultural, social, economic, and demographic processes affecting elder abuse and neglect.

1 senior abused is 1 too many.

Unfortunately, when it comes to showing just how urgent a problem elder abuse is, the numbers don’t lie:

  • 1 in 2 people are prejudiced against older people (Global Report on Ageism, World Health Organization)
  • In Canada, a 2015 study estimated that 7.5% of Canadians 55 and older experienced abuse (Into the Light National Survey on the Mistreatment of Older Canadians, National Initiative for the Care of the Elderly, 2015)
  • Women aged 55-64 years comprised the largest proportion of victims of femicide (19%) (Call it Femicide Report, Canadian Femicide Observatory sfor Justice and Accountability, 2020)
  • In Ontario, there was a 250% increase in calls to the Seniors Safety Line in 2020 (Assaulted Women’s Help Line, 2021)

As we all know – and indeed as was celebrated on June 13th “Celebrating Seniors Picnic” — older Canadians are vital, contributing members of our society, and their abuse or neglect diminishes all of us. WEAAD reminds us that, in a just society, we all have a critical role to play to focus attention on elder justice.

Until recently, this serious social problem was hidden from the public view and considered mostly a private matter. Even today, elder abuse continues to be a taboo, mostly underestimated and ignored by societies across the world. However, the evidence is accumulating to indicate that elder abuse is an essential public health and societal problem. From a health and social perspective, unless both primary health care and social service sectors are well equipped to identify and deal with the problem, elder abuse will continue to be under diagnosed and overlooked. We, as a country, cannot allow this to continue. 

This is where BCCRN comes in. In British Columbia, CRN’s community response networks are holding activities and events geared towards spreading awareness around the province in anticipation of WEAAD.

As part of the BC Association of Community Response Networks, the South Shuswap Community Response Network brings together groups and individuals in the South Shuswap who have regular, ongoing contact with potentially vulnerable adults as part of their day. This includes agencies, businesses, social groups, faith communities, and interested individuals too.

Sorrento Centre is the host agency for the SSCRN which meets once a month right here (4th Tuesday of the month) to help connect organizations, neighbours and others in the area, to facilitate networking and perhaps some collaborative projects. Such as this picnic and training workshops

Communities served by the South Shuswap Community Response Network include: Sorrento, Blind Bay, Sunnybrae, Tappen, White Lake, Eagle Bay, Notch Hill, Chase and the surrounding area.

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