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Respecting their elders

By B. Adam Burke
North Liberty Leader
NORTH LIBERTY– North Central Junior High studentsNisha Coney and Camille Anderson were recently recognized for their work in and out of the classroom in highlighting an issue that is frequently ignored or misunderstood: elder abuse.
Last year, 11 percent of elderly people reported some form of mistreatment, according to the National Institute of Justice, a research agency of the US Dept. of Justice.
Elder abuse can take many forms: physical abuse, financial exploitation, neglect, false representation, undue influence and deprivation of basic living standards are some examples. Cases can involve family members who empty their parents’ bank accounts or facility workers who assault victims.
Coney said she and Anderson decided “to try to do something about it.” They volunteered at a nursing home; wrote letters to their state representatives; and, after researching the issue, decided to go further by raising money to help prevent elder abuse.
They were recognized for their work at the Heritage Agency Advisory Council Recognition of Service Awards Ceremony on May 26, 2011.
The best friends’ service learning project was part of study in Ms. Maggitt’s Global Studies class.
Tracey Robertson, Regional Protective Services Coordinator at Heritage, said, “We were astounded that these two exceptional young women took the lead to help support and improve the quality of life for older adults.”
Robertson said the money will go to the Heritage Elder Abuse Intervention Program, which provides “a critical support for seniors in our community who are at-risk or victims of abuse, neglect, and exploitation.”
Anderson and Coney visited Oaknoll, an adult retirement community in Iowa City, meeting residents, playing games, and, according to Nisha, “finding out what life was like” in the nursing home.
They researched elder abuse and then went back to Oaknoll to volunteer again, this time communicating with residents and finding out more about their lives.
“We wrote letters to the legislators about the elderly people– about how they could make life easier for them financially,” Nisha said.
After researching elder abuse, a stigmatized social issue that affects every generation, they took the issue back to school to get more help.
A “from-scratch” bake sale put cinnamon rolls, muffins, brownies, and cookies in front of fellow students and school staff, raising almost $75.00. They also brought to light an issue rarely discussed in any setting, especially junior high.
Robertson said an estimated 84 percent of cases of elder abuse, neglect or exploitation go unreported.
To report elder abuse in the home, the Iowa hotline is 1-800-362-2178. To report suspected mistreatment in long-term care facilities and nursing homes, call 1-877-686-0027.