Group of Seniors Use Drama to Educate about Elder Abuse

Olya Lechky

A group of volunteers at the Bernard Betel Centre for Creative Living in Toronto have found a unique way to bring elder abuse out into the open.

Like spousal and child abuse, elder abuse is still shrouded in secrecy, denial and shame, says Sheila Zane, co-ordinator of a 15-member drama group that performs plays depicting various aspects of elder abuse. "Basically we do education through drama," says Zane. "Drama is the best vehicle to educate on sensitive and painful issues. Many seniors would not be interested in hearing a lecture on elder abuse, but many are interested in exploring the issue by seeing a play-acted out by seniors. We approach elder abuse by getting in through the back door."

The Bernard Betel Centre provides social activities, recreation, education, meals, counseling and referrals to its members, whose average age is 70. The Awareness Project on Abuse of the Elderly Committee promotes education on elder abuse by means of workshops, information, referrals and play presentations in the community. Originally, the committee focussed on educating the public through the media, lectures and speaking engagements. The idea of going out into the community to educate on elder abuse through drama is a relatively recent addition to the committee's educational efforts.