Daily Reflection
of Creighton University's Online Ministries
March 10th, 2009

Pat Callone

Institutional and Community Relations
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“Hear the word of the Lord, …Wash yourselves clean!
Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; Cease doing evil; learn to do good.
Make justice your aim; redress the wronged,
Hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow…”

In this reflection I would like to address the exhortation of Isaiah: “…defend the widow.”  In my work at Creighton, I study the treatment of older persons and am part of a team of persons working on the Creighton Study of Violence Across the Lifespan.

In 2009, society’s and families’attention to the mistreatment of older persons is generally avoided--not to be talked about.  The attention to the mistreatment of older persons today is about where the attention to the mistreatment of children and youth was 25 years ago.  In 2009, there are programs that are openly discussed and planned to try to halt the mistreatment of babies, youth, teenagers, young adults. But not so many for the treatment of older persons.  Here are some statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice – Office on Violence Against Women (2004 and 2005):

  1. “Every year an estimated 2.1 million older Americans are victims of physical, psychological, and other forms of abuse and neglect.
  2. Older women are more likely to experience domestic violence for a longer time, to be in current violent relationships, and to have health and mental health problems.
  3. Elder abuse is underreported; it is estimated that only 1 in 5 cases are reported.”

Creighton faculty are studying “financial exploitation/abuse.”  Older adults who have been financially exploited/abused are afraid to talk about it…especially if persons have experienced the exploitation in their own families. 

So what do we do?  Each of us can look into our own families and in our neighborhoods to see if older women and men are being treated with dignity.  Are they being excluded because of their mental or physical frailties?  Are they physically and socially isolated?  Are they receiving the food, healthcare, socialization, and spiritual resources they need and deserve?  Are their remaining skills and abilities being nurtured to their fullest extent so that St. Irenaeus’ quotation can be realized? “The Glory of God is man (and woman) fully alive.”

Lord, you ask us in this time of Lent to look around and see what our actions are doing to create your kingdom on earth. There are so many more older persons around us – some strong and some frail. Help us be aware of the dignity of each person – especially older persons – and make sure they are given the dignity they deserve because You are within them.

Help us be conscious that we are to defend the widow (and widower) and take actions to care for them.  Amen.                    

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