Remembering Indigenous Teachings on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day



FNHA Acknowledges World Elder Abuse Awareness Day—June 15, 2018

June 15 is designated as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day by the United Nations General Assembly, and it represents one day in the year when the whole world voices its opposition to all forms of Elder abuse. Elder abuse can take various forms such as physical, psychological or emotional, sexual and financial abuse. It can also be the result of intentional or unintentional neglect.

The First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) acknowledges World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, and challenges individuals and communities to break the silence around this rarely discussed and under-investigated topic.

For Indigenous people, the role of Elders is sacred. Elders are our teachers, grandparents, parents, aunties and uncles, and trusted supports. Most importantly, they are often the knowledge keepers for our communities, speakers of our traditional languages, and experts on the ways that our ancestors lived and related to one another.



FNHA Elder Advisor and Knowledge Keeper, Syexwaliya (Ann Whonnock, Squamish Nation) shares that, "Our Indigenous teachings tell us to honour, help and support our Elders in the home with things like meal planning, shopping, cooking, cleaning and laundry. It is not our way to burden them, yet some of our young ones financially rely on our Elders too much, taking money from them when they may be on a fixed income from their pensions and expecting them to take care of them. This could be considered a form of financial abuse, and this is not what our people have been taught."


Dr. Nel Wieman

"World Elder Abuse Awareness Day gives us an opportunity to open a conversation with our Elders," says FNHA Senior Medical Officer Dr. Nel Wieman. "Let's check in with them on how they are feeling and doing. Let's ask them questions if we have any concerns about possible abuse. It can be a sad reflection on us that sometimes our Elders are less visible and that their value isn't honoured. Stigma around Elder abuse is a definite factor in its being underreported."

Dr. Nel Wieman Shares Some Tips for Recognizing Elder Abuse:

• Observe any sudden or recent physical signs of abuse, especially unexplained – e.g., bruises, burns, fractures

• Watch for changes in mental/emotional state, which may indicate abuse – e.g., becoming withdrawn, anxious, depressed, irritable

• Be aware that sexual abuse may show both emotional and physical signs – e.g., abrasions, flinching behaviours

• Watch out for changes in an Elder's finances – e.g., decreased money for necessities, possessions disappearing

• Take note of an Elder's medication schedule, and whether they appear over- or under-medicated

• Other signs may include deteriorating hygiene or weight loss

We encourage you to check in on the Elders in your life to ensure their safety, health and emotional well-being.

In keeping with our Shared Values of Culture and Respect, the FNHA is committed to raising awareness of this issue, and to amplifying the voices of our respected Elders, like FNHA Knowledge Keepers Syexwaliya and Te'ta-in, on this and all issues of importance to our communities. Our First Nations know the value that Elders bring to all British Columbians as knowledge keepers and protectors of culture. Let's remember their teachings, and let them guide us.


United Nations World Elder Abuse Awareness Day:

Vancouver Coastal Health, BC First Nations Adult Abuse, Neglect and Self Neglect:

Seniors First BC/ SAIL: Seniors Abuse & Information Line:

Tel (604) 437-1940 , toll free at 1-866-437-1940

HealthLink BC:

BC Government/Reporting Elder Abuse: