NEWS GROWING VULNERABLE AS THEY GROW OLDER Rise in senior-abuse cases prompts D.A. to step up to protect elderly Charles Warenecki (left) and Daniel Hart were convicted of third-degree murder in the mugging death of Alice Thurnau, 90. ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Deborah Cooper Nixon was tapped by D.A. Seth Williams (top) to serve as director of the Elder Justice Project, which was created to better prosecute perpetrators and better serve victims of abuse. BY MENSAH M. DEAN Daily News Staff Writer deanmphillynews.com, 215-568-8278 ALICE THURNAU never left the hospital after suffering brain bleeding and a broken arm, hip, ribs, eye socket and sinus bone when she was knocked to the sidewalk in front of her Port Richmond home while being robbed of her purse.
Esther Ayodele had no signs of life when paramedics found her at her son’s Germantown home. The medical examiner found 273 bruises, and wounds on every part of her 5-foot-2, 98-pound body. Iris Galarza looked like a homeless drifter as she walked the streets of Kensington with plastic bags on her feet and reeking of urine. She had a home, but a woman she trusted was stealing her Social Security checks, resulting in Galarza’s living in squalor and having to beg a store owner for food, authorities said. These three women had one thing in common: old age. Thurnau was 90. Ayodele was 82. pcacares.org Pennsylvania Department of Aging hot line: 1-800-490-8505 National Center on Elder Abuse: ncea.aoa.gov Emergencies: 9-1-1 Mensah M. Dean Suspect abuse? Report it older with active cases in the D.A.’s office. “I personally feel that elder abuse is heinous, and it’s something that we as a society have to do more to stop,” Nixon added. She cited a study by Dr. Mark S. Lachs of the Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology at Weill Cornell Medical College, in New York, which found that victims of elder abuse die sooner than those who have not been subjected to abuse. In Philadelphia last year, the PCA tallied 2,800 reports of elder abuse, up from the 2,050 cases reported in 2008, said Snyder, SeeABUSEPagelO Galarza, who is deaf and has dementia, is 89. In Philadelphia and across the nation, elder abuse physical, financial, sexual or by neglect is a growing problem, yet it dwells in the shadows of the better-publicized crimes of child abuse and domestic abuse, advocates say. “Elder abuse here and everywhere is a hidden problem, and it’s only going to get bigger, given the demographics of the baby boomers,” said Joseph Snyder, of the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA), a nonprofit agency that investigates abuse allegations and works to keep the elderly in their homes. In response to the problem, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office has revamped its elder-abuse efforts into the Elder Justice Project to better prosecute perpetrators and better serve victims. Its director, Deborah Cooper Nixon, tapped by D.A. Seth Williams in December, has been with the office for 21 years, most recently as a homicide prosecutor. “I think the time is now for elder abuse. I think that people are really looking at this epidemic and asking, ‘Why?’ They’re asking, ‘How can we roll up our sleeves and help?’ ” said Nixon, 48, holding up a thick stack of papers containing the names of hundreds of abuse victims age 60 and WHEREto reportelder abuse or get information about it: Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office’s Elder Justice Project: 215-686-9669 Philadelphia Corporation for Aging help line: 215-765-9040; Tuesday, February 19, 2013 PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS Pages