Recognizing and reporting elder abuse is a lot more complex than the province’s latest public relations plan to promote the issue on social media.
Asking people to use a hashtag to discuss elder abuse in B.C. will be about as effective as the #bringbackourgirls — an online community discussing the kidnapping of 230 Nigerian girls. And about as effective as the Kony 2012 online video about the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Africa who has been indicted for war crimes.
Both of these social media-based efforts certainly did raise awareness. However, the Nigerian girls are still missing and Joseph Kony is still out there. Nice ideas, but as is the lament about online campaigns, they only go so far and our attention spans are so short, we move on to the next best thing.
Where an online campaign will have an impact on elder abuse issues in B.C. is in raising its profile. It’s altogether possible that more information will reach people who are genuinely interested in the issue and take definitive action.
That action will be ensuring people have a place to go when they witness or are victims of abuse, or people to talk to. As explained by B.C.’s new Seniors Advocate, Isobel Mackenzie, it’s a start in the wider dissemination of information — but people still need to know how to recognize elder abuse. That vital information might possibly find its way through the chaff of online comments and opinions.
While it is important to have an opinion on elder abuse, it’s also vital to be able to find resources and support for those who have been victimized. If that can be done in 140 characters or less, great.
If not, it’s a waste of time.
Like most issues that need serious help, resolving elder abuse will need people to put down the phone, turn off the laptop and talk to their neighbours to learn how they can have a real impact.