Elizabeth Podnieks should be very proud. The creator of World Elder Abuse Awareness (WEAAD) along with her colleagues, had an idea many years ago to bring the world’s attention to the issue of elder abuse. She recalled: “The first WEAAD was held at a colloquium (I remember liking that term!) at New York University, October 1, 2003 . It was an auspicious event, but bittersweet as Rosalie (Wolf) was not there. We based some of our discussions on the theoretical framework from the UN Principles for Older Persons and the International Plan of Action on Ageing from 1999. When you revisit that early work the adage 'everything old is new again' comes to mind.” How has WEAAD evolved since its inception? It truly epitomizes the common vision we all share of building a strong and stable society that protects and empowers older people.
We can easily measure how awareness has grown. Here’s a snapshot- on June 15th, the campaign hashtag #WEAAD and #WEAAD2017 were trending on Twitter, as high as the number six position, with over 17,800 posts from advocates around the globe. Our WEAAD toolkit items were shared over 1,000 times via social media by individuals, organizations, and agencies around the world. This year we were able to track over 105 government agencies, AAAs and other organizations that shared and utilized these items. This is so exciting, and definitely shows growth in awareness but does it really mean we are preventing elder abuse?
This year the Administration on Community Living (ACL) challenged the NCEA and all interested partners to really measure if we were making a difference. The ACL hosted a webinar entitled “Measuring the Impact of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day through Logic Modeling- Dr. Karen Stein in conversation with Mary Twomey”. We often contemplate if our awareness efforts truly change behaviors, perceptions and prevent abuse. With the assistance of Ageless Alliance, we were able to measure the impact of our social media campaign and compare analytics from 2017 to 2016 to see the difference we have made. Here is what we know one month after WEAAD 2017:
•We set a goal that a minimum of 10 different organizations would post, comment, or re-tweet posts, compared to last year. 25 new organizations joined this year and at least 31 new individuals posted.
This is only a starting point. These efforts will certainly require more evaluation in the future and what we learn will be integrated into our ongoing activities.
The team here at the NCEA is very encouraged by this year’s campaign. We posted videos of APS workers vowing to strengthen supports. We saw children sharing the message of justice in aging to their peers. We receive questions, concerns and reports of victories through our technical assistance line, email and social media. We know we have a long way to go. So many are committed to a society free of neglect and abuse and are working collectively. It is possible to have a society that dignifies aging and is free of neglect and abuse.
Our thanks to Dr. Podnieks and all of you for your commitment to building sturdy structures of support and strengthening our communities.