Abuse and neglect of our Commonwealth senior population is far more common then we may want to think and is a growing problem.

A U.S. Administration on Aging study estimates that up to 1 million elderly are physically abused, neglected or financially exploited each year.

Officials acknowledge that it is under reported, unrecognized and difficult to gauge the scope of its prevalence. National studies show that for every one case of abuse reported, another 24 go unreported.

Many factors affect reporting such as the victims fear of retaliation, apprehension to prosecute family members, or lack of capacity to describe the crime or perpetrator.

Massachusetts has had an elder abuse reporting law for more than 27 years. While reaching 24,000 elder abuse reports in Massachusetts in 2014, experts suggest that, following the national trend, elder abuse continues to be significantly under-reported. That’s more than two new abuse filings every hour every day.

The incidence of financial exploitation, the misuse or withholding of an older adult’s resources, is growing nationally. Fraudulent telemarketing schemes and unscrupulous scam artists increasingly target elders, resulting in significant financial losses. In addition, loved and trusted family members too often make illegal and improper use of resources, resulting in emotional and financial damage that is devastating.

Elders and vulnerable adults are left unable to pay for their basic daily needs, including housing, food, critical utilities and medications, and are traumatized by this victimization.

One third of reported elder abuse cases last year involved allegations of financial exploitation and the number is expected to grow as the population ages. National and state elder service recognize that addressing financial exploitation is a priority.

To aid in early identification and prevention of elder financial exploitation and fraud and assist elders to remain safely in the community, on Thursday, Jan. 10 at 4 p.m., at the Attleboro Public Library, program presenters Gabriela Vieira, vice president, Banking Center Manager Webster Bank; Arthur J. Brillon, a special investigator from District Attorney Tom Quinn Financial Abuse Investigative Team; lawyers from South Coastal Counties Legal Services Inc., will provide an overview of the signs of financial exploitation and fraud, and simple strategies for protecting one’s assets and how to report an elder in need of assistance.

To register for the program contact the Attleboro Council on Aging at 774-203-1906.

The writer is director of the Attleboro Council on Aging.

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