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Syracuse.com Commentary: View murders of Eva Fuld, Connie Tuori for what they are: elder abuse

In the last two months, Syracuse has witnessed the brutal murders of two women over the age of 80. While the news stories have focused attention on the young age of one of the accused perpetrators and the lack of oversight and safety of the building in which the second woman lived, the one thing that has not been clearly stated is that Eva Fuld and Connie Tuori were victims of elder abuse. It should also be noted that the 74-year-old woman who was brutally raped in Skyline Apartments in 2018 was also a victim of elder abuse. These women were targeted because of their age and the belief that they were vulnerable.

Elder abuse is relatively unknown and underreported. In one of the largest studies  conducted on the prevalence of elder abuse in New York state, it was reported that for every case of elder abuse that comes to the attention of authorities in Central New York, there are 35 cases that remain hidden. This study also found that more than 250,000 New Yorkers have experienced and reported some form of elder abuse since turning 60. Due to the significant level of unreported cases, we should believe that the number of victimized older adults is actually far higher.

Elder abuse is most often committed by someone who is familiar with the older adult. It might be a family member, friend, neighbor or person of trust. Financial exploitation tends to be the most commonly reported form of abuse, but very rarely does it occur in isolation. It usually co-occurs with some other form of abuse like physical, emotional, sexual abuse or neglect.

As we ask how the building owners and city officials could neglect to provide adequate measures to ensure the health and safety of their residents, we also need to ask ourselves: How do we view older adults in our community? How do we contribute to the negative messaging of aging in our society? Do we see older adults as valued resources or as burdens? Do we assume they can no longer contribute to society, that they can’t hear or see and are confused? Do we make them the brunt of our jokes? The messages we send about aging directly impacts the way our young people view older adults. It teaches them that older adults hold no value and are disposable. When we perpetuate these stereotypes, we perpetuate ageism. Ageism justifies abusive acts against older adults.

All three women chose to live independently in their own homes. They exercised their right to self-determination and they deserved to live with dignity. They deserved to live free from the fear of abuse, neglect and exploitation.

We can choose to ignore ongoing and underreported abuse of older adults in our community or we can choose to prioritize the well-being and safety of our older adults. We cannot allow older adults to be invisible, and should view these acts for what they are: elder abuse. Aging is natural, abuse is not.

If you suspect someone is being abused or exploited you can seek assistance by contacting:

  • Vera House Confidential Crisis and Support Line: (315) 468-3260
  • Vera House Confidential Crisis and Support Live Chat: https://www.verahouse.org/online-chat-service
  • Onondaga County Office of Adult and Long Term Care- Adult Protective Services: (315) 435-2815
  • Onondaga County Office of Adult and Long Term Care- Office for Aging: (315) 435-2362

This commentary was originally published on Syracuse.com on March 25, 2021: https://www.syracuse.com/opinion/2021/03/view-murders-of-eva-fuld-connie-tuori-for-what-they-are-elder-abuse-commentary.html.