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News Specialist Jill Atwood reportingSenator Orrin Hatch is proposing landmark legislation that for the first time will put the problem of elder abuse in the national spotlight.
Hatch says the issue has been invisible far too long, forcing too many seniors to suffer in silence.
To ignore this issue is to ignore the fastest-growing segment of our society -- those 85 and older.
If this legislation goes through, for the first time, federal dollars will funnel down to the state and community levels.
The motive behind this bill is simple -- to raise awareness to a crime that too often goes unpunished.
To exploit, abuse or neglect the elderly is against the law, no matter who you are.
"They use that age-old excuse that, 'hey, I was going to get it anyway when grandpa died. I was going to inherit it so I'm just taking it now.' Somehow in their minds they seem to think that's OK, or it's OK to leave grandma locked in the bedroom because she has Alzheimer's and I'm afraid she's going to wander," says Ron Stromberg with the State Division of Aging and Adult Services.
This bill comes at a time when we have more older Americans than ever before. Over the next 30 years, 75 million baby boomers will reach their golden years.
Hatch believes the elderly need to be on our minds sooner rather than later.
"Our right to live free of suffering from abuse and neglect does not diminish with age. As we unlock the mysteries of science that let us live longer, we must ensure that we can live better lives as well," Hatch says.
The Elder Justice Act would give Utah Adult Protective Services more funding for research and training. It would also create a national database for states to compare trends and caseloads.
"We are where child welfare was 20 years ago, or domestic violence 15 years ago. We still have people saying no one would abuse grandma -- this can't be happening. So they are not even recognizing the problem," Stromberg says.
Not only will adult protective service workers receive more training, but so will law enforcement in recognizing elder abuse.