San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu, Assessor-Recorder Joaquin Torres and the city’s district attorney’s office recently joined a myriad of senior care organizations in a discussion on protecting older adults from abuse.

“None of us want any of our seniors to be abused anytime, anywhere. But the fact is, we know thousands of elderly people are abused right here in our community,” said Anni Chung, president and CEO of Self-Help for the Elderly.

In honor of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, held annually on June 15, city officials and organizations gathered to promote awareness on the ways older adults silently fall victim to violence and neglect. They encouraged people to look out for signs of physical, emotional, sexual or financial abuse in their older loved ones.

Staffers of Assemblymember Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, shared sentiments on his behalf at the news conference held in the Governor’s Conference Room in San Francisco. He referred to elder abuse as a “crisis in our culture,” one especially exacerbated during the pandemic when there was an uptick in violence against Asian American seniors.

“I think deepening the collective respect for elders through education, advocacy and call to action days like today are really critical to eradicating elder abuse,” staff members said on behalf of Ting.

“None of us want any of our seniors to be abused anytime, anywhere. But the fact is, we know thousands of elderly people are abused right here in our community.”

Anni Chung, Self-Help for the Elderly

Chiu said that oftentimes, abusers are trusted people that seniors know, like family members or caretakers. He urged residents who are aware of abuse to first call the police and seek out resources available that the city has to offer.

And California law provides specific statutes that allow for more severe penalties against bad actors that are abusing seniors, he said.

On a civil enforcement scale, he mentioned his office’s recent efforts to combat financial abuse and scams targeted against seniors. Earlier this year, Chiu opened an investigation on Home Title Lock, a company that allegedly scammed older adults into buying unnecessary home title protections with deceptive advertising.

“That is one of many examples that we have heard of in recent years, where our seniors are being targeted and are vulnerable when it comes to financial fraud,” Chiu said.

“But we can only use our tools if we know what abuse is happening out there,” he said.

YouTube video
A discussion of types of elder abuse, warning signs, risk factors and prevention tips. (Medical Centric/YouTube)

Nancy Tung, chief of the Vulnerable Victims Unit in the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, said in many cases, seniors are often going through legal proceedings in a language that is not their own, while facing mobility problems, health issues and trauma. She said they need to be “wrapped around” in support during the justice process to know they aren’t alone.

“Elders need a voice in this process. They need a champion,” she said.

Torres encouraged seniors and their families to attend an in-person forum on Aug. 12, made in collaboration with city police, to learn more about financial scams like foreclosure prevention and debt relief scams and how to avoid them. The Family Wealth Forum will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the City College Multi-Use Building.

“We want our seniors with us in their most weakest moments and in their strongest ones,” Torres said. “And it’s up to us to ensure that we’re those partners to ensure that can be made possible.”