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August 22, 2006


The Source of Information and Assistance on Elder Abuse

Outreach to Special Populations

Reaching Hidden Victims - Community Sentinels for Elder Abuse Prevention

In 1999, the National Center on Elder Abuse launched a major new initiative to discover ways to identify and help isolated elders who may be at risk of abuse and neglect. Following an application process, the Center provided seed grants to six jurisdictions with differing populations, specifically to train professionals and volunteers as Community Sentinels for Elder Abuse Prevention. The projects were located in the following communities:

  • Cayuga County Coalition Against Elder Abuse, Auburn, New York
  • LIFESPAN Elder Abuse Consortium, Rochester, New York
  • Orange County Elder Abuse Mistreatment Coalition, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
  • Six County RSVP, Richfield, Utah
  • Sonoma County Human Services Elder Abuse Prevention Council, Santa Rosa, California
  • Yuma County Elder Abuse Task Force, Yuma, Arizona
To launch the program nationally, the Center worked closely with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Meals on Association of America (MOWAA) and the National Association of Retired Senior Volunteer Program Directors (NARSVPD).

What Did the Demonstrations Accomplish?

The collaborations resulted in a number of positive actions and outcomes, including the training of approximately 1,280 Community Sentinels.
  • All six of the community elder abuse coalitions reported an improvement in communication and cooperation among member agencies and an increase in their responsiveness to elder abuse cases.
  • There was also an increase in referrals to APS in the communities where sentinels were mobilized.
  • More than 20 products were developed by the local coalitions (brochures, grocery bags, place mats, poster, a video, and the like). Materials, such as PowerPoint presentations, were developed for training specific professional audiences, including law enforcement, legal staff, and postal workers. Outreach materials were distributed to over 7,650 individuals.
  • Project managers reported an increase in the satisfaction level of the sentinel volunteers who, because of training, were enabled to help people they believed might be victims or potential victims of abuse, neglect or exploitation.

Implications & Recommendations

The project also uncovered several issues of importance for policy and program development. For example:

  • Misconceptions by both professionals and the public as to how and to whom to report abuse/neglect - and what Adult Protective Services (APS) can and cannot do by law - suggest that both professionals and community volunteers need better information on APS roles, responsibilities and authorities.
  • Providing cross training opportunities between APS and other service systems (aging, financial, legal, medical, social services) is essential in creating a comprehensive system of response to elder abuse.
  • Ongoing investment is needed to support local prevention efforts under the auspices of community elder abuse coalitions.
  • Future outreach initiatives should seek to train representatives from the faith communities, senior housing, long-term care facilities, civic organizations, and schools as sentinels.

To Find Out More about the Community Sentinel Initiative

See Sentinels: Reaching Hidden Victims. Project Final Report.

Get Involved with a Coalition!

Search for: Elder Abuse Coalitions and Task Forces.

National Center on Elder Abuse
1201 15th Street, N.W., Suite 350 · Washington, DC 20005-2842
(202) 898-2586 · Fax: (202) 898-2583 · Email: