Governor Reynolds with AARP members at bill signing. (AARP photo)

Elder abuse will be defined as a crime in Iowa when a new law takes effect July 1st. Governor Reynolds has approved a bill that creates new criminal penalties for emotional abuse and neglect of Iowans who are 60 or older.

“The safety and well being of older Iowans is so very important,” Reynolds said, “and this bill ensures that there will be consequences for those who target and harm them.”

The bill establishes a new criminal charge of financial exploitation of an older individual.  “Abuse doesn’t always mean physicial. It can also mean financial crimes,” Reynolds said, “and this bill also establishes criminal penalties for those that target individuals for that purpose.”

The governor held a bill signing ceremony at a senior living center in Williamsburg and signed a proclamation to commemorate World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

These changes in state law have been a top priority for AARP for several years and the bill passed the House and Senate this year unanimously. Sixty-seven-year-old Roseanne Gates, an AARP volunteer, has lobbied for the bill since 2019.

“Sheriffs and police departments and that really weren’t able to do anything much before. They would receive a lot of complaints,” Gates said, “but now they have an official law.”

Gates had signed up to travel to nursing homes and other places around the state to educate older Iowans about elder abuse, but the COVID pandemic halted those plans. She’s now ready to make those trips, armed with the details in this new law to crack down on elder abuse.

“My grandmother was a victim of it, in a care facility, actually,” Gates said. “I have friends who’ve experienced it.”

Gates said sadly online scammers who’ve targeted her friends are hard to track down. Gates drove more than 200 miles from her home in Crystal Lake to Williamsburg to witness today’s bill signing.

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, as many as two million Americans above the age of 65 have been abused.