On one of the news sites this morning, there were two separate articles about elder abuse. In New York, a high-risk sex offender who has already served 10 plus years behind bars was charged with raping a 75 year old woman. Her 76 year old friend only escaped the same brutality because she confronted the attacker with the words, “Don’t hurt us God will forgive you.” Apparently stunned by such a confrontation, he stopped and fled the scene.
And in New Jersey, a home healthcare worker was arrested yesterday for abusing an elderly patient. She was caught because the family was videoing her care and recorded the mistreatment over the course of many days.
I did a little research and found that there are several types of abuse against older people. There is the obvious physical abuse of hitting, slapping, pushing, restraining and so on. There is psychological or emotional abuse that can take the form of shouting at the elderly, humiliating them and other forms of general disrespect. There is financial abuse when someone deprives the older person of their property or money. There is sexual abuse that ranges from forcing someone to participate in conversations of a sexual nature to forced sexual activity. And, of course there is general neglect.
Perpetrators tend to be someone who has established a position of trust with the elderly. It might be a member of the extended family, a neighbor, or a care giver. The statistics are deeply unsettling. I am told that about 64% of this kind of abuse takes place in the family home. Residential care abuse happens in another 23% of the cases. The abuse increases with age and about 70% of the atrocities are committed against older women.
You and I ought to be outraged at such information. And since it will be Domestic Violence Awareness Month in just a couple of weeks, maybe it is a good time to review what the scriptures have to say about caring for the aged among us.
Fundamentally, God cares deeply for the elderly. He often couples their needs in the same sentence as caring for orphans. Abandoned children and the widows are at the top of His list for care and concern. Both in Deuteronomy and Psalms, God declares that He is the defender of the widow. And He makes sure we understand our role as well.
Plead the case of the widow! (Isa. 1:17)
Visit the widow in their affliction! (James 1:27)
Provide the finances for the fatherless and widow! (Deut. 26:12)
God sums up His attitude about caring for the elderly in Exodus 22:22 “Do not take advantage of a widow or orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused…”
So, take a look around your corner of the world this week. Where are some elderly folks that could use some care and concern? Start in your own family, but consider folks in your church, those in an assisted living facility near you or neighbors just down your street. Maybe you could do some shopping for them, or write them a special note of encouragement. Or just make a phone call in order to share your concern.
Let’s make protecting the older generation a priority!
By His Grace and for His Glory,
Sherry L. Worel