Elderbridge Agency on Aging offered a presentation Thursday on elder rights.
The event was one of many held this week as part of the agency's 40th anniversary celebration.
According to Jason Murley, elder rights specialist, elder abuse is under-reported.
"We want to make the public aware that it is out there. It's happening," Murley said. "We also want to teach people how to notice it, if a friend or family member is being abused or being taken advantage of."
About 4 percent of the elderly population is subjected to abuse or mistreatment, Murley said.
"Beginning in 2012, baby boomers began turning 65 at a rate of one every 10 seconds, so about 10,000 people a day turn 65. That trend will continue for 20 years," he said. "So, by 2030, there will be 70 million people who are 65 or older. If you take 4 percent of the 65-plus, that's about 2.8 million people being abused. It's a big problem."
There are several categories of abuse, Murley said, including physical and sexual abuse, financial exploitation and self-neglect.
Caretaker neglect is another serious concern.
"A lot of times, with these, the person that's being neglected doesn't want to criticize the person, because then they're worried that person isn't going to take care of them," Murley said. "Sometimes they make up excuses for them. 'Oh, they're really busy. They just forgot.' And it's really tough if it's a family member who's the caretaker because then it might be, 'If I say this, I might not get to see my grandkids.' It can be hard to draw that out of somebody."
The elderly are also afraid to report financial exploitation, Murley said.
"They feel embarrassed that they were scammed so easily," he said. "I've listened to and heard a lot of different people say, 'Don't tell my kids. They'll put me in a nursing home.' A lot of older people won't even report it because they're afraid if their kids find out, they'll think they're not able to take care of themselves and they'll end up someplace they don't want to be."
Hoarding, Murley said, is also an increasing problem among the elderly.
"It is now classified as a mental illness," he said. "It's comparable to an alcoholic. It's not something you can take some pills to get rid of it. This is something you have to work on every day and take small steps to combat."
Preventing or ending abuse is easy, Murley said. It only takes listening to elders, educating people and being brave.
"Don't sit on your hands. You might be wrong, but better safe than sorry," he said. "If you have anybody who you suspect of being abused, feel free to call myself, call the agency."
He added, "Anybody can report abuse."
LaVonne Keyser, of Fort Dodge, a senior citizen, found the presentation informative.
"This is more or less what I expected," she said. "Not enough people know about the help they can get."