It's a heartbreaking video that's sparked outrage, shock and disgust - Karen Klein, a 68-year-old grandmother, bullied on the bus by a group of students who repeatedly insult and threaten her, calling her nasty names and reducing her to tears.
The video went viral, with more than 4.5 million hits and inspired a Toronto man to fundraise to send Klein on a nice vacation. (He was aiming for $5,000, but a press time, the fund reached more than $550,000 and counting.)
For Burnaby resident George Doering, a member of the Council of Senior Citizens' Organizations of B.C., the verbal attacks are a clear case of elder abuse.
"This really upset me. This is elder abuse," he says. "She should have charged every one of them."
Preventing elder abuse and neglect is the subject of an upcoming workshop that Doering is presenting at the Burnaby Multicultural Society.
The free workshop, which runs for about an hour-and-a-half, covers different types of elder abuse and teaches participants how to spot the signs and what to do about it.
Seated at the kitchen table in his South Burnaby home, Doering, 82, defines elder abuse as the mistreatment of seniors. It can take financial, emotional, physical or mental form or involve inappropriate dominance, control and isolation.
"They are suffering," Doering says. "People are isolated, they might have mental or physical impairments."
Spouses who have been abused in earlier relationships are at risk of elder abuse, and according to the group's presentation, older women are victims of roughly twothirds of reported cases.
"I think men are stronger, and women are more used to suffering from marriage," Doering says.
According to the council, an estimated eight per cent of B.C. seniors experience abuse, but 80 per cent of abuse or neglect is not reported; only one in five cases comes to the attention of authorities or community agencies that can help.
While abuse in care facilities is an under-researched problem, abusers are often family members, either adult children or spouses of the victim.
"Elders can be abused by anybody really, anyone who really comes in close contact with elderly people," Doering says.
Some of the possible indicators of abuse include burns, bruises and grip marks. A person could be fearful, confused or have difficulty walking or sitting. They may be vague in explaining the signs or avoiding medical attention.
Indicators of financial abuse - where seniors' money, property or assets are misused without their knowledge or consent - could include changed legal documents or forced signatures, withdrawn money from accounts, missing possessions, unpaid bills or withheld pensions.
Neglect can be either active (meaning deliberate) or passive, where the caregiver is unable to properly care for the seniors. Signs of neglect may be present with the caregiver, who could be unaware of the senior's needs or unable to help because of his or her own stress or declining health and advancing age.
Victimized seniors apparently have a hard time speaking out.
"People are old," Doering says. "They think it's their fault if anything happens. They become more frail and can't respond."
Doering said the underreporting is one of the worst things about the problem.
"They are scared the abuser might do more harm if they are reported in a home."
Fellow COSCO member Donna Dawson is one of the co-hosts presenting with Doering.
"The purpose of the workshop is to recognize the signs and symptoms and not be afraid to report it," she says.
Dawson, also a Burnaby resident, used to volunteer with the RCMP's victims' services, where she would come across the occasional case of elder abuse.
"Once in a while, we'd get that kind of report, someone would be brave enough to phone it in," she says. "There was fear they would be abusing the parent, for example, let's say a son on drugs and the mother was giving him money and providing a place to live, that kind of stuff. Those are the kind of things that might be seen."
Dawson described the problem as serious and sensitive.
"People don't want to talk about it," she says.
Doering says people need to talk more about elder abuse.
"We've got to be more open and honest and helpful," he says.
The free workshop is on Tuesday, July 10 at the Burnaby Multicultural Society, from to 2: 30 to 4 p.m. The society is at 6255 Nelson Ave. For more information, call Carol Ha at 604-431-4131 ext. 27 or email carol.ha@thebms. ca. COSCO holds workshops on a wide variety issues for seniors.
To book a talk, contact COSCO coordinator Sheila Pither at 604-684-9720.