Generations_Reframing

Taking Action Against Elder Mistreatment

Reframing Elder Abuse By Laura Mosqueda, Alyssa Neumann, and Eden Ruiz-Lopez

Effective project work to reframe communications and public perceptions about elder abuse boosts support for elder abuse awareness, prevention, and solutions.

W hy should we reframe aging and elder abuse? As the lead elder abuse information resource for the public and for professionals, the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) often hosts resource tables at community health events to educate others on elder abuse and prevention strategies. We have noticed, however, that many people who approached our table at such events would turn away when we mentioned the word “abuse.” Or they would make dismissive com- ments like, “I don’t want to think about that,” “It only happens in nursing homes,” or “We need to take care of vulnerable old people.” These reactions and misunderstandings are common; elder abuse is not an easy subject to introduce to the public and many professional organizations dedicated to helping older adults struggle to communicate effectively about the issue. Such widespread misconceptions under- mine our nation’s ability to engage in meaning- ful discourse on developing adequate services and policies for older adults and elder abuse. The NCEA realized it needed a new approach

for introducing the idea of elder abuse to the public—an approach that didn’t cause a sense of shame, of hopelessness, or of being overwhelmed so as to be rendered ineffective. We learned that several national aging orga- nizations and funders in 2014 had united to change the way Americans think and talk about aging through an initiative called Reframing Many professional organizations in the aging sector struggle to communicate effectively about elder abuse. Aging (reframingaging.org). It was this action that started our parallel project, Reframing Elder Abuse (bit.ly/ReframeEA). Both reframing projects contracted with a nonproft think tank called FrameWorks Insti- tute to understand public conceptions on aging and elder abuse; and to use those understandings

abstract Professional organizations in aging struggle to communicate effectively with the public about elder abuse. In 2017, the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) partnered with the FrameWorks Institute in the Reframing Elder Abuse project, creating an evidence-based communication strategy that could elevate the issue with the public and boost support for systemic solutions to prevent and address elder abuse. In this article, NCEA staff describe why the strategy was needed, explain project progress, and state long-term goals. | key words : elder abuse, National Center on Elder Abuse, NCEA, reframing elder abuse, FrameWorks Institute, Archstone Foundation, Administration for Community Living, ACL

Copyright © 2020 American Society on Aging; all rights reserved. This article may not be duplicated, reprinted or distributed in any formwithout written permission from the publisher: American Society on Aging, 575Market St., Suite 2100, San Francisco, CA 94105-2869; e-mail: info@asaging.org . For information about ASA’s publications visit www.asaging.org/publications . For information about ASA membership visit www.asaging.org/join.

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GENERATIONS – Journal of the American Society on Aging

to develop an evidence-based public commu- nication strategy that builds awareness of how communities can be restructured to be more age-integrated and free from elder abuse (see Busso et al article on page 10). The reframing projects intertwined with multi-phase efforts. From 2015 to 2016, dur- ing the frst phase of the Reframing Elder Abuse project, FrameWorks conducted public opinion research that revealed the public’s misconcep- tions of aging. The public saw “aging as deteri- oration” and held “paternalistic attitudes” that made people feel fatalistic because they thought of older adults as inherently vulnerable to abuse. The research found that the public generally lacked awareness and understanding of the soci- etal causes of, effects of, and solutions to elder abuse (Volmert and Lindland, 2016). The NCEA’s Role in Reframing Elder Abuse With funding from the Administration for Com- munity Living (ACL), the NCEA from 2016 to 2017 partnered with FrameWorks on Reframing Elder Abuse’s second phase—the testing and cre- ation of a new communication strategy on elder abuse. FrameWorks found that using a “struc- ture of justice” metaphor to frame “elder abuse as a social justice issue that needs metaphorical beams of support services” was successful in shifting public attitudes away from “vulnerabil- ity” and “paternalism,” and toward collective efficacy and empowerment. When tested, the new strategy also built the public’s understanding of the underlying causes of elder abuse and increased support for poli- cies that prevent and address elder mistreat- ment (O’Neil et al., 2017). In 2017, Frameworks published research (tinyurl.com/yd9tm2so) and a Talking Elder Abuse toolkit (bit.ly/EA_toolkit), which contains practical application resources for professionals. Since 2017, the NCEA has fa­ cilitated the third phase of this project, which is the nationwide dissemination and implemen- tation of the “structure of justice” communica- tion strategy.

With funding from Archstone Foundation and ACL, the NCEA promotes the elder abuse communication tools in conjunction with Frame- Works, a national advisory board, and the NCEA’s parallel project, Reframing Aging. Our objectives are to increase professional adoption of the strat- egy by disseminating the communication tools through listservs, presentations, trainings, blogs,

FrameWorks found that using a “structure of justice” metaphor was successful in shifting public attitudes around elder abuse.

webinars, and workshops. As professional dis- semination progresses, the NCEA, the Reframing Aging project, and the advisory board will focus on applying the strategy with the public by incor- porating it through factsheets, websites, videos, social media campaigns, and presentations, as well as via a united World Elder Abuse Aware- ness Day (WEAAD) campaign. After revamping the NCEA’s public awareness materials, hosting numerous professional work- shops, and providing material redesign technical assistance, the feld of aging has responded posi- tively to the new elder abuse communication tools. Numbers that highlight the Reframing Elder Abuse project progress include the following: √ The Talking Elder Abuse toolkit has had more than 8,059 website visits . √ The NCEA has conducted eighteen Reframing Elder Abuse presentations and three webinars, making up an audience total of more than 1,237 professionals across various disci- plines including law, medicine, social work, care- giving, and communications. √ The NCEA has reframed twenty-nine of its public awareness materials, including six in Korean, Spanish, and Chinese languages. These The Field of Aging Responds to Reframing Efforts

Copyright © 2020 American Society on Aging; all rights reserved. This article may not be duplicated, reprinted or distributed in any formwithout written permission from the publisher: American Society on Aging, 575Market St., Suite 2100, San Francisco, CA 94105-2869; e-mail: info@asaging.org . For information about ASA’s publications visit www.asaging.org/publications . For information about ASA membership visit www.asaging.org/join.

18 | Spring 2020

Taking Action Against Elder Mistreatment

materials have generated more than 3,722 web- site clicks and 1,892 were disseminated in per- son and-or via mail (bit.ly/NCEApubs1). √ During our 2019 reframedWEAADCam- paign, eleven bloggers use reframed language on various sources such as NextAvenue and the Health Foundation forWestern &Central NewYork, 106 organizations throughout the United States and Canada promoted our logo, and there were 37,553 microsite visitors (bit.ly/WEAADHome). √ Since January 2017, we have assisted the U.S. Postal Inspection Services (USPIS), whose reach is nearly 500,000 consumers, in draft- ing and releasing two materials, one about mail fraud scams that target older adults (bit.ly/ USPIS-OA), and another about online romance scams (bit.ly/USPIS-Scam). √ In June 2019, ACL’s Office of Elder Justice and Adult Protective Services reframed their Elder Justice Hub website content (elderjustice.acl.gov). In Reframing Elder Abuse workshop eval- uations, many participants said that as a result of the NCEA’s sessions they would “change the focus of ‘their elder abuse’ presentations to solu- tions rather than problems” or change their “con- versations with elders about abuse to empower them” and, ultimately, many said they would re- examine public awareness materials they publish after considering the FrameWorks research. Reframing Elder Abuse is flourishing and the feld of aging is ready for new language around aging and elder abuse. The project is transform-

ing communication about a difficult topic that professionals shied away from to a topic they are better equipped to understand and to address. Over time, the NCEA plans to unite communica- tion efforts across those organizations invested in aging issues and to engage the public in sup- port of efforts that empower older people, thus bringing our nation closer to having a society free of elder abuse. Now, when people approach the NCEA resource table we say, “Our nation believes in jus- More than 100 organizations promoted our World Elder Abuse Awareness logo, and there were 37,553 microsite visitors. tice for all, yet older people are being mistreated. We all deserve to be treated equally no matter our age. Would you like to learn more?” Laura Mosqueda, M.D., is dean of the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California (USC), in Los Angeles. She also serves as the May S. and John H. Hooval Dean’s Chair in Medicine, is a professor of Family Medicine and Geriatrics, and is director of the NCEA, based at USC. Alyssa Neumann is project coordinator of the Reframing Elder Abuse Project at the NCEA. Eden Ruiz-Lopez, M.P.A., is the NCEA’s assistant deputy director.

References O’Neil, M., et al. 2017. “Strength- ening the Support: How to Talk About Elder Abuse as a Policy Issue.” Washington, DC: Frame- Works Institute.

Volmert, A., and Lindland, E. 2016. “You Only Pray That Somebody Would Step In”: Mapping the Gaps Between Expert and Public Under- standings of Elder Abuse in Amer- ica . Washington, DC: FrameWorks Institute.

Copyright © 2020 American Society on Aging; all rights reserved. This article may not be duplicated, reprinted or distributed in any formwithout written permission from the publisher: American Society on Aging, 575Market St., Suite 2100, San Francisco, CA 94105-2869; e-mail: info@asaging.org . For information about ASA’s publications visit www.asaging.org/publications . For information about ASA membership visit www.asaging.org/join.

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