What is outreach?
Outreach refers to the process by which the public or professionals are made aware of a problem, informed of available services, and instructed in what they can do to help. In the field of elder abuse prevention, outreach has accomplished the following:
- Alerted professionals, policy makers, and the public about the nature and extent of abuse
- Familiarized those in need about available services and how to access them
- Enlisted the support of interested persons to advocate for new services and policy, spread the word about the problem, and serve as volunteers
- Sent a warning to perpetrators and would be perpetrators
- Conveyed the message to the vulnerable that they are not alone and encouraged them to seek or accept help
Outreach may be general in scope, reaching a broad audience, or it may target specific groups. Groups that are typically targeted by elder abuse prevention programs are:
- Victims or vulnerable persons
- Persons who have witnessed abuse or are likely to
- Policy makers
- Members of specific ethnic or cultural groups
- Homebound or isolated seniors
- Perpetrators or potential perpetrators
The outreach message
Outreach campaigns and activities can convey a variety of messages to achieve specific goals. "Elderly Pennsylvanians Deserve Honor and Respect, Not Abuse," for example, was the keystone of a campaign carried out by the Pennsylvania Department of Aging Services, after focus groups revealed that seniors didn't like being portrayed as passive victims. AARP chose the message "Telemarketing is a crime," after a survey revealed that although seniors felt that telemarketing was wrong, many didn't view it as criminal.
Reaching special populations
Special efforts may be needed to reach individuals who are isolated as a result of illness or disability, geography, low literacy, language, or cultural factors. A variety of innovative approaches have been developed to overcome specific obstacles.