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Elder Abuse a Key Issue for South Dakota Seniors

January 22, 2007

South Dakota AARP members are gathering in Pierre this week to meet with lawmakers on a range of senior issues, and a new law on elder abuse is at the top of the list. Sam Wilson with AARP says hundreds of thousands of older people are abused each year nationwide, and legislation is needed in South Dakota to deal with the problem.

"What we have in South Dakota statute now is a definition of elder abuse that also gets lumped up in with the disabled. Of course, we no longer consider becoming old a disability. The second part is to create mandatory reporting for suspected elder abuse. South Dakota is one of only six states remaining in the country that does not require mandatory reporting."

Wilson notes that elder abuse can be physical, sexual or emotional, and can also include financial exploitation.

"There are also categories such as neglect and self-neglect that will be included in the bill that's being drafted now. It's going to cover all aspects of any way an elder could be exploited, whether in their home, in some type of institution where they're living or whatever setting someone may find themselves observing someone that has abuse patterns."

Wilson believes lawmakers should make the elder abuse bill a top priority.

"Elder abuse has been one those issues that has been in the closet that no one really talks about. As our population ages and we have a greater percentage of our state's population who fall into that category of being elderly, you're going to see, unfortunately, more and more cases of this. We need to be prepared for that and we need to be able to tackle that when the issue arises."

More than 200 seniors from across the state are busing into the capitol today as part of AARP's annual "Lobby Days."

David Law/Eric Mack, Public News Service - SD