Senior woman with her caregiver at home

A Santa Monica-based senior service center has been awarded a contract to run the new Adult Protective Services (APS) Center of Excellence. This new center seeks to serve older adults and those with disabilities who are experiencing abuse, neglect or exploitation by working to ensure their safety, prevent further abuse and to seek justice on their behalf.

WISE & Healthy Aging is a nonprofit social services organization headquartered on Fourth Street that serves more than 20,000 older adults each year from the Los Angeles county area.

In May, a motion was passed by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors directing the Los Angeles Department of Aging and Disabilities to create a new APS Center of Excellence, where an interdisciplinary team of government and community-based organizations will meet weekly to address the most egregious abuse cases of older adults and adults with disabilities.

“Elder abuse is more common than many people realize,” said Miles McNeeley, Vice President, Elder Abuse Prevention, WISE & Healthy Aging, who will lead the APS Center. “We have an increasingly aging world, where the population is experiencing a higher percentage of older adults.

“And if we’re looking specifically at elder mistreatment, the definition is really broad. It encompasses a lot of different kinds of mistreatment. So it could be physical, it could be emotional or psychological abuse, it can be neglect, it could be sexual abuse. It can also include self neglect and it can also be financial abuse. And a lot of times when there is one form of abuse being reported, it’s coupled with at least one other form of abuse,” McNeeley said.

Elder abuse as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is an intentional act or failure to act by a caregiver or a person that the older person trusts that causes them to be at risk for harm. About 1 in 10 people aged 60 or older living at home experience some form of abuse each year and nearly 30 percent of individuals age 65 and older with disabilities who need assistance with daily care have been the victim of a non-fatal violent crime, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse.

As part of the Center’s team of experts, WISE & Healthy Aging is partnering with renowned elder abuse experts Laura Mosqueda, M.D., Professor of Family Medicine and Geriatrics, Director, National Center on Elder Abuse, Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California and Bonnie Olsen, PhD, Geropsychologist and Professor of Clinical Family Medicine and Vice Chair for Research at Keck USC. Drs. Mosqueda and Olsen will provide the clinical expertise on how best to address the complex elder abuse cases presented at the Center.

McNeeley explains that WISE and Healthy Aging created what he calls “the fast team” about 15 years ago, which is “a financial abuse, multidisciplinary team” and that was the impetus behind Los Angeles County creating its first forensic center that focuses purely on elder abuse.

“It is also the service provider for the long term care ombudsman program as well, which is a program that provides advocacy services and investigation to residents of care facilities that might be experiencing some level of mistreatment or some issue at an adult care facility,” he says.

“WISE has been in a leadership role in terms of elder abuse and intervention in the county for quite some time and has been regarded as a leader in the field of elder abuse, services and prevention and intervention.”

Additionally, the APS Center of Excellence will function as both a Forensic Center and a Training Center, where its interdisciplinary team will not only collaborate to help resolve complex cases of alleged elder abuse in Los Angeles County, but also provide advanced training for APS social workers and community partners to hone their skills and learn new interventions to prevent and address elder abuse.

If you suspect that an elderly friend or member of your family is a victim to any form of abuse, the first thing to do is to reach out to the WISE & Healthy Aging center. Advice and contact details can be found at

Scott fell in love with Santa Monica when he was much younger and now, after living and working in five different countries, he has returned. He's written for the likes of the FT, NBC, the BBC and CNN.