Nunavik marks World Elder Abuse Awareness Day
“They own the knowledge and the history of every culture and deserve to be treated with respect”
This June 15, take a moment and spend time with an elder, to learn about their culture and their past.
That’s the message from organizations in Nunavik, which will mark World Elder Abuse Awareness Day in communities across the region.
The day was created by the World Health Organization in 2006 to draw attention to the mistreatment and neglect of elders.
And it’s an issue facing communities in Nunavik and across the North.
Martha Annanack, coordinator for elders’ and women’s issues at the Kativik Regional Government, said Nunavimmiut elders are often faced with caring for their families and sometimes extended families, even as their health deteriorates.
Other Nunavimmiut elders report financial abuse, often perpetrated by their own family members.
“It’s not good to see our elders treated badly,” Annanack said. “They’re the ones that gave us our own culture and put us in good hands.”
A report released by the Health Council of Canada last year also found that elderly Inuit receive dramatically lower quality health care than their non-Aboriginal peers in southern Canada.
“Little attention has been paid to the health care needs of Aboriginal seniors in either research or public policy, and this has created some growing concerns,” said the report, released in November.
It noted that Inuit and other Aboriginal seniors have a difficult time navigating the health care system, particular when they must travel south for care.
But Annanack said that fortunately, there appears to be less abuse of elders that there has been. That’s because the issue is being discussed at both the community and regional level more and more, and victims of abuse are speaking out.
“They understand that it’s not normal…and they make sure they’re being heard,” Annanack said, noting that elders are now sharing their concerns with family members and even community leaders.
“Communities that are really involved in their elders’ concerns are starting to voice them as well. So it’s good.”
Annanack said there are many initiatives across the region to help support elders’ well-being, although there’s a need for many more.
For example, Nunavik’s elders association has said it would like to see more intergeneration homes built across the region.
The units, designed by Nunavik elders, consist of a bedroom, bathroom and joint kitchen and living room, linked by a door to the larger two-bedroom living space of a duplex unit, where other family members would live.
Elders say the units offer them the right amount of support and security as they age.
The first of Nunavik’s five existing intergenerational homes was built in Kuujjuaraapik in 2009, while two more communities will see new units built this summer.
To better understand the needs of Nunavimmiut elders, the NRBHSS is in the process of developing a regional plan to counter abuse directed at elders. The plan is still in the consultation phase, but should be released by the end of 2014.
To help celebrate the region’s elders, the KRG and the health board are planning a number of activities in the region on June 16, a day after World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
In Kuujjuaq, the elders’ home will be open through the day to welcome elders and their families. Elders can take part in a raffle, tea making contest, bingo and a lunch hour feast.
And for the first time in Nunavik, all 14 communities will host their own activities for elders and their families. Residents should contact their hamlet offices for details.
“It’s very rewarding to see these communities involved,” Annanack said, “Seeing elders faces; sharing, talking together and getting out of their homes… it’s very rewarding to see their smiling faces.”
“Elders are the base of every population across the world,” said a June 12 release from the NRBHSS. “They own the knowledge and the history of every culture and deserve to be treated with respect.”