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The Role of Professionals & Concerned Citizens

What role can concerned citizens play in preventing elder abuse?

Concerned citizens can play a fundamental role by providing a link between the service network and those in need. They can help spread the word about the problem, advocate for needed policy and reform, and volunteer to provide critical assistance to vulnerable persons and the agencies that serve them.

Specifically they can:

  • Reach out to vulnerable neighbors, friends, or family members. Those most vulnerable to abuse are likely to be isolated as a result of physical, cultural, or geographic barriers. Vulnerable persons can benefit from companionship, assistance with daily activities, and information.
  • Learn more about the problem and services that can help.
  • Report abuse if you suspect it. For information on how to report, to whom, and what will happen when your report click here. Encourage older victims or vulnerable seniors to accept help that is offered.
  • Convey the message that nobody deserves to be abused
  • Advocate for needed services and policies in your community or state.

How can concerned citizens get involved?

Join a coalition. Some communities have coalitions, committees, or councils that welcome concerned citizens. For information on elder abuse coalitions in your community, contact your local senior information and referral telephone line. To get the number, contact the Eldercare Locator at (800) 677-1116.

Spread the word. Arrange for or make presentations on elder abuse at churches or synagogues, meetings of civic organizations, clubs, or professional associations.

Advocate. After you have learned about abuse and your community's needs, share your knowledge and concerns with your elected officials. Policy makers are particularly receptive to hearing about problems from their constituents.

Become a volunteer. There are numerous volunteer opportunities for concerned citizens. These include:

  • Money management programs. Volunteers assist persons who are having difficulty managing their finances. Help can include assisting seniors organize and keep track of financial and medical insurance papers, establishing a budget, helping with check writing and checkbook balancing, or serving as a representative payee or fiduciary. AARP works with agencies in some communities to set up volunteer money management programs.
  • Triad, a national program that fosters collaboration between seniors and law enforcement, offers a variety of volunteer opportunities.
  • Long term ombudsmen volunteers make routine visits to nursing homes to monitor care and advocate on behalf of residents.
  • Volunteer guardianship or guardianship monitoring programs provide opportunities for volunteers to help ensure that vulnerable persons' rights are protected and that they will not be exploited.
  • Friendly visitor or peer counseling programs match volunteers with persons who are isolated, lonesome, or could use a little help or companionship.
  • Retired professionals can make valuable contributions by sharing their expertise with community agencies. Retired police officers, lawyers, and accountants can assist agency personnel investigate cases, interpret financial records, interpret the law, and offer advice and assistance.

For information on volunteer opportunities in your community, contact your local senior information and referral telephone line. To get the number, contact the Eldercare Locator (800) 677-1116.

What resources are available?

Elder Abuse: Questions and Answers -- An Information Guide for Professionals and Concerned Citizens (1996 [sixth edition], 28 pp). Produced by the National Center on Elder Abuse, this publication provides basic information in a question and answer format, including: the origins, causes and incidence of elder abuse on both the national and state levels; victim and perpetrator characteristics; and an explanation of the services available to victims, families and at-risk elders. It is available through the National Association of State Units on Aging (NASUA). Click here for more information on NASUA.

The Fraud Fighters Program Kit, was created by AARP to teach older consumers about criminal telemarketing. The kit includes a 16-minute video, which contains an interview with an incarcerated telemarketer, an audiotape of actual recordings of fraudulent telemarketers at work, handouts, and suggestions for how to present a telemarketing fraud workshop. It is available free of charge to anyone who agrees to present the program to at least two groups. Contact John McInerney at (202)434-2462 or write to:

Telemarketing Fraud Team
601 E Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20049
Telephone: (202) 434-AARP

Consumer Action, a national organization promoting consumer advocacy, has released a set of brochures for consumers including Banking Basics, which explains different kinds of accounts, fees, automatic deposit and bill paying, and the importance of establishing personal relationships with bankers. Living Better on Less: How to be a Conscious Consumer offers tips for consumers with disabilities. The brochures are available in Chinese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese. For information, call Consumer Action (415) 777-9648 or visit their website at

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