Social Media and Elder Abuse Prevention

So this isn’t a game design concept but illustrates, in much the same we approach using existing game structures to address social issues, how broader social media applications and services can be easily repurposed to address social issues.   

I had a great opportunity to take part in a conference at the Institute of Medicine on the use of communications technology to prevent violence.  There were several types of violence to be addressed through working groups and then presented/expanded in workshops at the conference. I was given the category of Elder Abuse and was paired with two very accomplished individuals Xinqi Dong (our content expert) and Donna Levin (a very accomplished technologist doing great things at

You can read more about the whole proceedings here.

Our groups paper can be found at page 111.

The pre conference mock-up (ie static page) of our ideas can be seen here.

Here is a brief chronology of the concepts and design thinking:

1.  Xinqi Dong initially gave us an overview and context for what elder abuse is and the broad definition of abuses that occur.  It was both sad and overwhelming.

2.  Donna and a group over at did some great preliminary awareness campaign advertising concepts.  One of which you can see embedded in the web-site about half way down on the left.  Led to the idea of using as the hypothetical organization or campaign.

3.  Our team over here did a round of social media brainstorming and came up with the following translations of existing systems modified or re-skinned to different uses for elder abuse (top of web-page to bottom) and integration of existing items that need better visibility:

A.  A section similar to that use videos from users to push for awareness and policy change.

B.  A tool similar to many sex offender watch dog sites that enables location based reporting and database of cases to help family members or individuals be aware of things going on in their neighborhood or elder care homes.

C.  Integration of the silver alert system for missing elders.  This is similar to the amber alert system but could be better promoted as I wasn’t even aware it existed.

D.  A support group locator – There are lots of networks out there and increased awareness and ability to reach out to them could help through a simple comprehensive location based database

E.  A major issue being perpetrated against elders is financial abuse through internet phishing or door to door scams so a similar alert network to amber or silver alerts could allow neighborhoods, families, or individuals know of trending scams and be vigilant against them.

F.  It Gets Better has been a great campaign for supporting the LGBT community.  The shame of being a victim of elder abuse is a major hurdle and implementing something similar to their work could help de-stigmatize this type of abuse and empower victims.

G.  Simple Facebook sharing and network notifications  could help promote the issue and help propagate the alerts.

H.  Online pledges are great for advertising and broadening networks as people share and pass along the message.

4.  The workshop group was very supportive of these ideas and brought several other great additions to the table that are not pictured such as:

I.  A user generated definition of elder abuse widget i.e. Elder Abuse = (input your story here) so that it can grow to include all forms and make everyone feel included who is suffering and help broaden our understanding across cultures and geographies.

J.  Links to research being done.

K.  Online petitions and letter campaigns- essentially ways to easily interact with current legislation and legislators.

L.  An advocacy resource section for people working in the field.

M.  A strong ad concept that would visually look similar to the one embed in the page that could be repeated with images of different elders from all ethnic backgrounds and reads “Elder Abuse =” with a list of items: emotional, physical, sexual, neglect, fraud.  And written across the bottom “A victim every 2.7 minutes”

All of these would be great.  I could see a redesign of the site that specifically breaks out sections of the site and targets the information for the elders themselves (alerts, support groups and info, the video campaigns etc), family members and the community (resources for reporting, researching, getting involved) , educators and activists (links to resources and research).

There are obviously lots of great organizations out there dedicated to this cause.  We would love to support any of them in the realization of a site like this.  If you are one of those groups or someone interested in using this as a springboard to start an organization ( sounds pretty compelling to me) we would be happy to share/support/work with someone to make this a reality.

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