McALLEN — Rosa Ramirez will always remember the extreme heat as she walked into the home of an elderly Rio Grande Valley woman in the middle of August a few years ago.
“A lot of people know about the plight of abuse in children but a lot of times they forget that elder abuse is very prominent here in the Valley,” said Ramirez, director of Silver Ribbon Community Partners, a local nonprofit United Way agency.
Their mission is to provide education, resources, and support to help prevent abuse, neglect and exploitation of the elderly and disabled in Hidalgo and Starr counties. Silver Ribbon Community Partners is one of 15 organizations benefiting from AIM Media Texas Charities’ inaugural campaign to raise funds for the hungry, homeless and people in need of basic essentials in the Valley.
AIM Media Texas is the parent company of the Valley Morning Star, The Monitor, The Brownsville Herald and the Mid-Valley Town Crier.
Every year, more than 2,500 cases of elder abuse are reported in Hidalgo County alone, according to reports from Adult Protective Services in McAllen. Cases vary from sexual, physical and emotional abuse, but the most common is financial abuse, according to local and national figures.
The annual loss by victims of elderly financial exploitation was estimated to be $2.9 billion in 2009, according to the National Center of Elder Abuse. They also report that one in 10 Americans over 60 experienced abuse over one year, and many experienced it in multiple forms.
In the Valley, many people helped by Silver Ribbon are living below the poverty level with an average annual income of $10,000, putting them at an even higher risk for abuse, Ramirez said.
Ramirez, 63, has been the director of the non-profit for the last five years. She says victims sometimes have no way out of an abusive situation because they cannot afford to leave and live on their own.
Founded in 1996, Silver Ribbon has helped thousands of elderly citizens dealing with abuse, homelessness or even those having trouble paying their bills. The charitable organization is funded by state and local grants and supported by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, which houses them at their main office in McAllen.
Many elderly people are exploited by their own family members or caregivers, Ramirez said. Many retired seniors worked their whole lives in agriculture and now depend on their Social Security checks and their families for support.
“Instead of honoring our elderly many times we forget about them,” Ramirez said. “They could have been teachers or bankers when they were younger but as they get older they become invisible and not seen as a vital part of our community.”
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Honoring Elders: Silver Ribbon Partners targets senior abuse in RGV