Social isolation and elder abuse

Many of the risk factors for social isolation and loneliness overlap with those for elder abuse. These include being age 80 or older, having compromised health status and/or chronic conditions, living with low income, and lacking awareness of or access to community services and programs. Immigrant older adults can be more susceptible to these factors and experience additional risks, such as lack of charter language ability, loss of status in the family and dependence on younger family members due to sponsorship.

Social isolation and resilience

Participants in the Lived Experiences study spoke at length about their experiences of isolation, loneliness and resilience. I have presented to both community and intersectoral stakeholders (2018, 2019) on these topics, and the Resilience, Social Connection and Community Organization forum (one of three Learning from the Lived Experiences of Older Immigrants  forums focused on these topics). Colleagues and I have taken a human rights stance on social isolation of older immigrants published in French, and my peer-reviewed article, ‘Between loneliness and belonging: Narratives of social isolation among immigrant older adults in Canada,’ is now published online (2020).

As a result of this work, I was invited to participate in the Social Inclusion Validation Workshop on Recent Immigrant and Refugee Seniors (national consultation, 31st May 2017. Vancouver, B.C.), hosted by the Seniors and Pensions Policy Secretariat, Employment and Social Development Canada, that gave rise to a supplementary toolkit for newcomers on prevention of social isolation.

Prevention of abuse

Prevention of abuse of immigrant older adults must include changes to the conditions of sponsorship of parents and grandparents. My contribution to an understanding of underlying systemic causes of elder abuse in immigrant communities resulted in my inclusion in the national Moving Forward team that brought researchers and community stakeholders, including immigrant older women, together to discuss causes and routes to prevention. This work is captured in our publication, ‘Prevention of abuse of older women in the post-migration context in Canada.’

As a result of this work, I was invited as the keynote speaker at a World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) event and as a participant in B.C’s provincial consultation on elder abuse that informed Vancouver Coastal Health’s ReAct Adult Protection Program.