By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
As one might expect, an editor’s desk (or e-mail box) can be filled quickly in the course of a week.
Regardless of whether we get it the old fashioned way (via mail) or electronically, editors are inundated with requests from people who want us to share their messages.
Normally, I very seldom use items that do not have a direct tie with one of our Tennessee Baptist or Southern Baptist entities. I make no apologies for that. The B&R is the newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Tennessee news gets priority treatment.
But on occasion, something will catch my eye that Tennessee Baptists need to be aware of.
Last week I received a notice from the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability asking for my assistance in promoting World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
I never had given much thought to elder (senior adult) abuse. I have heard occasional news reports but I didn’t realize how serious the problem has become.
According to information supplied by the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), which is funded by the Administration on Aging, five million people annually (that’s one in 10 older Americans) are victims of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation.
And that may be just the tip of the iceberg. According to the NCEA, experts believe that for every case of elder abuse or neglect that is reported, as many as 23.5 cases go unreported.
I was raised to respect senior adults. In fact, it was not an option when I was growing up and it’s not an option now as far as I’m concerned.
It bothers me when I see younger people today disrespect senior adults. I was listening to a sports talk show a year or so ago and one of the hosts (a younger guy) disrespected a senior adult man who called and complained about some of the language they were using. The talk show host’s response to the man was horrible and to this day I do not listen to him.
Even worse, teenagers and older children see the poor example of some younger adults and they, too, show an amazing lack of respect for the older generation.
Senior adults have “paid their dues” and deserve nothing but the utmost respect. I know, there are “bad apples” in every crowd. I am talking generally of senior adults as a whole.
Back to the abuse.
According to the NCEA, elder abuse refers to intentional or negligent acts by a caregiver or “trusted” individual that causes (or potentially causes) harm to a vulnerable elder. Most common categories of abuse are neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse and exploitation, emotional or psychological abuse, and abandonment.
Christians and churches have a responsibility to help protect our senior citizens from potential harm. Scripture is filled with references about caring for the elderly and widows. Leviticus 19:32 says it well: “Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly, and revere your God. I am the Lord.”
One of the last things Jesus did on this earth before He died on the cross was to make sure his mother was taken care of. His example should be all the incentive we need to care for the elderly.
Monday, June 15, is World Elder Abuse and Awareness Day.
Take a moment that day to pray for senior adults all across the world. Find ways to honor the senior adults in your congregations.
Encourage youth and children’s classes to “adopt a senior adult” and take them some baked goods or do some yard work for them.
Senior adults have so much to offer based on a lifetime of experience. They’re a valuable resource. Let’s protect them!
For information about World Elder Abuse and Awareness Day, visit www.acl.gov/weaad.