Editors, Vineyard Gazette;

June 15 presents an opportunity for residents of Martha’s Vineyard to “think globally and act locally.” Since 2006, this date has been marked World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, an international call to action. Action begins with lifting the curtain on abuse, neglect and financial exploitation of older people in our own communities.

We can lift the curtain by learning the basics of pertinent Massachusetts laws and local services at Elder Services of Cape Cod & the Islands (escci.org/elder-abuse-prevention/).

We can lift the curtain by listening when an older person is describing threats, physical harm, neglect or losses. Recognize that even with your support and encouragement, people may be highly resistant to reporting or seeking victim services. Feared loss of independence, embarrassment, expecting not to be believed, reluctance to get family members in trouble, cognitive limitations and cultural factors are among the numerous reasons for that reluctance.

Listening and building trust may at least make it possible to develop safety measures without formally engaging social service or law enforcement authorities.

We can lift the curtain by knowing how to make a report of suspected elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation in Dukes County. Any victim or concerned person may report at 1-800-922-2275 (operating 7 days a week 24 hours a day.)

We can lift the curtain Island-wide by working with others to make Martha’s Vineyard a safe, inclusive, welcoming and active community for older people and people with disabilities. Earlier in life, mistreatment is more readily noticed, because younger people are expected to show up at school and at work. A safe and welcoming community draws us out. It’s a hedge against isolation and the risk of harm.

None of us, alone, can eradicate elder abuse, but all of us can expand awareness, prevention and responses to this often hidden and complex public health issue.

Iris C. Freeman

The writer is an elder justice policy specialist and educator. She serves as board secretary of Healthy Aging Martha’s Vineyard.