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World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) is a reminder of the ongoing need to advocate for the rights of older adults. On June 15, CNPEA and partners Elder Abuse Prevention OntarioB.C. Association of  Community Response Networks, and CanAge hosted a national online event to commemorate WEAAD. A summary of highlights and key takeaways follows.

Opening remarks

Debra Sayewich, a member of the Wasauksing First Nation and the founder of Age Friendly Consulting, started off the event by leading attendees through the 7 Grandfathers Teachings to guide the day’s conversation.

Minister for Seniors, the Honourable Kamal Khera, joined via recorded statement, highlighting WEAAD as an opportunity for Canada to join global efforts against elder abuse. Minister Khera also announced the recipient of the 2023 Dr. Elizabeth Podnieks Award for Elder Rights in Canada.

2023’s Dr. Elizabeth Podnieks Award for Elder Rights in Canada

The award, which is named after Dr. Elizabeth Podnieks, founder of WEAAD, gives recognition to an individual for their contributions towards elder abuse awareness and prevention.

Years ago, when Dr. Podnieks was told about the improbability of getting international recognition for WEAAD, she responded “but together we can do it.” This year's recipient, Krista James, embodies that message well. During her time at the Canadian Center for Elder Law, Krista conducted research on elder abuse prevention, and issues of capacity, decision-making and healthcare, working on groundbreaking projects with older women and people living with dementia Now the policy director at Vancouver Coastal Health, Krista hopes to continue making an impact in the lives of older adults.


The event was moderated by Laura Tamblyn Watts, CEO of CanAge, and Margaret Gillis, Founding President of International Longevity Centre Canada (ILC-Canada) and featured

  • His Excellency Bob Rae, ambassador and permanent representative of Canada to the United Nations (UN) in New York.
  • Ovide Mercredi, ILC-Canada ambassador and former National Chief of The Assembly of First Nations.
  • Dr. Amanda Grenier,  Norman and Honey Schipper Chair in Gerontology and Social Work at the University of Toronto.


Ageism and its impacts

The main focus of the event was ageism and its impacts:

  • The internalizing of negative stereotypes.
  • A decline in mental and physical health.
  • An increase in victimization.

The implications of ageism are far-reaching. When people are devalued because of their age, they are also at higher risk of social isolation and violence. Through fostering opportunities for older individuals to participate in all aspects of society, the opposite scenario may become true. 

Building intergenerational relationships is a key strategy. Intergenerational relationships encourage mutual understanding, social cohesion and personal growth, all while combating ageism.

“We don't see [older adults] as a burden. They're very much part of the community. They're our wisdom keepers. They're skilled individuals with integral roles when it comes to ceremony and leadership in some communities.” - Ovide Mercredi, ILC Canada Ambassador

Intersectionality and amplified barriers

“[Elder Abuse] is not happening in a void, it's not just coming from nowhere, it's about relationship and power dynamics.” - Dr. Amanda Grenier

Panelists also discussed how race, gender, class and sexuality intersect to create unique experiences of disadvantage. This phenomenon often compounds the effects of multiple forms of discrimination for older people when accessing healthcare, legal services or other supports. It is vital that all Canadians have access to services that are equitable, culturally sensitive and competent.

“There's a lack of awareness on the part of healthcare providers about particular health needs and concerns of LGBTQ+ seniors. Will they feel safe? Will they have a fear of being mistreated, not being provided with the appropriate kinds of services? ” - Dr. Tom Warner, Senior Pride Network 

Nothing about us, without us

In all areas of research, policy and practice, it’s important to include the voices of those impacted. Several panelists brought forth the concept of ‘nothing about us, without us.’ This means engaging older adults, their insights, needs and preferences, in the interventions aimed at addressing ageism and elder abuse.

“Don't make policies without engaging with older adults of many varieties. We are not one homogeneous group. We need good consultation, good involvement and good engagement.” - Dr. Tazim Virani, Senior VP, SE Health

However, as Dr. Amanda Grenier and journalist Moira Welsh mentioned, this is no easy task. It’s difficult, necessary work to seek out and empower individuals so that their contributions can be heard and acted upon.

Possibility thinking 

Working towards a brighter future is not just about seeing what currently needs to change; it’s about focusing on the potential for innovation. Possibility thinking encourages exploring new solutions and harnessing the collective power of diverse perspectives to inspire hope and drive transformative action in the face of challenges.

“Looking at these very negative stories wasn’t making a difference, We decided I would look for something completely different, an approach that upturned that. And now with the Star's Third Act Project, we're taking that further.” - Moira Welsh, Toronto Star 

This means active involvement from government agencies, healthcare providers, community organizations and the general public to successfully address elder abuse. Canada has a long way to go, but this year gave us cause for hope as well.

The way forward

In her introductory remarks, Minister Khera highlighted the Canadian government's initiatives to address elder abuse and ageism:

  • 13th session of UN’s Open Ended Working Group on Ageing (April 2023): Minister Khera’s participation marked the first time a minister from Canada was in attendance, representing our country in the conversation. 
  • Elder Abuse Definition: the Federal government has been working towards finalizing a policy definition for elder abuse to help raise awareness and inform government programs and policies.
  • Federal, Provincial and Territorial (FPT) Forum of Ministers Responsible for Seniors: the Forum is actively analyzing the impact of the pandemic on elder abuse to better inform their work. After a nationwide consultation, the FPT Forum also identified ageism and its social and economic impacts as a priority and is currently working on the development of a report to propose strategies, approaches and promising initiatives to address this.

Progress has been and will continue to be made, but collective action can make all the difference. Together we can do it.


If you’d like to watch the webinar, you can find it here. For more resources to help you take action against ageism, check out the following.


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