“There’s this sixteen-year-old boy who is verbally and physically abusing his mother, a Filipina,” reported a Philippine lady.
“What? Really?” was the collective response of the listeners. I was one of these. (Respect for the elders is a pillar of Philippine culture and that was counter to the norm.)
Last October, I received an invitation from Ms. Jean Guiang, O. M. (Order of Manitoba), who is the project coordinator of ICAPEA (Innovative Cultural Approaches in the Prevention of Elder Abuse). I was invited to join the Forum/Workshop on Elder Abuse to be held Saturday November 6, 2010, at the Philippine Canadian Centre of Manitoba (PCCM) in Winnipeg.
I understand that along with Dr. Doris Collantes of Calgary and Mr. Frank Macapagal of Vancouver, we were invited to represent the other western provinces, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia, respectively. Dr. Collantes is the founder of the Pilipino Educators and Advocated Council in Calgary while Mr. Macapagal is the Chapter Commander of the Knights of Rizal (KOR) in British Columbia.
I participated in a previous forum on Cultural Barriers and Elder Abuse Awareness in August at her invitation and I found it very inspiring and productive. At that workshop the participants discussed the various forms of elder abuse. As a warm-up to the workshop, my regular column in the August 5–20 issue of Filipino Journal was on elder abuse.
The November forum was again sponsored by the KOR and the Manitoba Association of Filipino-Canadian Teachers Inc. (MAFTI) and the topic this time was Servicing and Communicating with Seniors. On Thursday, November 4, my wife and I drove for six hours to Winnipeg arriving suppertime with the plan to be at the Forum Saturday and return to Regina Sunday, thus enabling me to fulfill my commitments back home.
On Saturday, I came early to register and to renew friendships with KOR and MAFTI friends. The morning session which started at ten a. m. was very informative with a panel of service providers explaining their objectives as agencies to combat elder abuse, their modus operandi, and how they are able to help in ordinary and critical situations. Speakers came from the Winnipeg Police Department, the Age and Opportunity Inc., the Protection for Pensions in Care Office, the Manitoba Seniors and Healthy Living Secretariat, and Partners Seeking Solutions with Seniors. One of the organizers of the forum, Ms. Gemma Dalayoan talked on Communication Tips, the Filipino Style. The Forum was moderated by former MP Dr. Rey Pagtakhan.
I was quite impressed with the presentation of Constable Susan Desjardin who explained how the Police respond to the call of 911 for help in all forms of emergency cases including elder abuse. The slight delay if any was merely to weed out crank calls and hoaxes. Inevitably, some speakers in trying to be thorough had to explain a form of elder abuse and sometimes duplicated a previous speaker. However, they were able to inform the participants numbering 150 to 200 how their services are quite accessible and rather easy to obtain. The agencies also set up display booths giving out brochures and pamphlets on their functions, how seniors are helped and other information on living in Canada.
Lunch was served at noon and after lunch an open forum was conducted by Dr. Pagtakhan. This brought out various comments including the exchanges at the start of this article. It turned out the teenager has a Caucasian father and has learned abusive behavior from him. This is a case where intervention by the police would perhaps alleviate, if not altogether solve, the situation.
There are definitely various forms of service and assistance available to seniors in a bind whether abusive or not. What is perhaps more important is that seniors realize, have the courage and be empowered to avail themselves of the services. On the other side of the coin, victimizers and perpetrators of abuse should be made aware of their risks and possibilities of convictions and jail sentences.
The wide announcement of the elder abuse forum/ workshop in the papers and other media, on posters and even just word of mouth warns the victimizers of their danger in carrying on. A large calendar put out by ICAPEA, say, showing different forms of elder abuse month after month and indicating recourses (with phone numbers) for the victims may be given to seniors to hang in their kitchen or wherever conspicuous. Even a simple banner saying “Report Elder Abuse” may be placed in family homes or senior care homes (to scare off abuse by care givers).
There is no excuse for elder abuse and this beast; this social disease must be eradicated the way some medical diseases are being eradicated. The efforts of ICAPEA are certainly worthwhile in trying to bring this about.
Merry Christmas and a Prosperous 2011 to you all!