Founder of the Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (CNPEA), the Ontario Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (ONPEA), and Vice President of the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA), Doctor Elizabeth Podnieks is highly invested in the cause of the elderly.
After studying a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Toronto, the Canadian, Elizabeth Podnieks, pursued her studies with a Master of Environmental Science from York University and finished with a Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of Toronto. She is now a Professor Emerita at Ryerson University in Toronto and has been a nurse in different places. She is a pioneer in elder abuse work and is the one who implemented the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) intending to raise awareness on the subject among children and adolescents.
In today´s world, it is around 1 in 6 people 60 years and older who experienced some form of abuse in the past year
She starts to be heard around 1991 by conducting a survey that pushed Canada to take action for the elderly: the “National Survey on Abuse of the Elderly in Canada”. The prevalence and circumstances of abuse of the elderly in the country are studied and identified at a national level for the first time. It is a key step. The survey focused on material abuse, chronic verbal aggression, physical violence, and neglect, and found out that about 40 persons per 1,000 elderly population experience maltreatment in their own homes by partners, relatives, or significant others. This is a shock for Canadians. In today’s world, it is around 1 in 6 people 60 years and older who experience some form of abuse in the past year.
Elizabeth started to lead and be part of several studies around the world to improve elderly conditions and access to health. She, for example, contributed to the first “Best-Practice Guideline on the Prevention of Abuse and Neglect of Older Adults” reports and proposed to progress on the identification of abuse situations, the response to these abuses and neglects but also on the education, prevention, and policies around the subject. These issues have been raised for the first time, and involved many nurses and professionals working with the elderly. For her work, the Doctor received the Order of Canada and the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal.
“There is a need for extraordinary leadership, clarity of vision, and complete commitment in knowing that in a civil society, each person can and must resolve to do better, be stronger, to reach further, to find solutions.”
Today, she is still working on several projects and keeps making grow the WEAAD community to make it sustainable and global. As she says, “there is a need for extraordinary leadership, clarity of vision, and complete commitment in knowing that in a civil society, each person can and must resolve to do better, be stronger, to reach further, to find solutions.”
Written by WAVE Intern Raphaëlle Jouannic
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