Elder justice activist Philip Marshall was inspired by seeing a family member become a victim.
"I was filled with angst, frustration and a sense of impotence as I saw my grandmother's world -- that had spanned the globe and a century -- become so diminished and compromised by my father," said Marshall, who was a keynote speaker at a local event highlighting the issue of elder abuse.
To help raise awareness, he formed elder justice organization Beyond Brooke.
"The greatest impediment when it comes to elder justice and ageism is the fear factor," said Marshall. "We're scared to death of death."
Organizations gathered to commemorate World Elder Abuse Day on Friday at Mount Saint Mary's in Newburgh. Advocates say that many don't know about the problem.
"Elder abuse is when there is a trust relationship between two people, and one person violates that trust," said Bob Blancato of Washington D.C., organization Elder Justice Coalition. "And oftentimes it's a younger person; oftentimes, sadly, it's a family member. But there are also outsiders, scam artists."
Blancato says one in 10 seniors become victims. And many more don't report being victimized. He cites data from the Senate committee on aging says that the numbers could be five times higher than reported.
"That could be 5-10 million cases per year," says Blancato. "That's a serious problem."
Elder abuse can take many forms, from financial abuse such as money scams to physical abuse or self neglect.
"Usually, someone who was neglected by someone in the family or care situation, that person gets abandoned, they become a victim of self neglect," said Blancato, who also was a keynote speaker at the event. "They don't know how to care for themselves, and it's a very bad situation."
Organizers say this event, in its 10th year, is about connecting elder populations with resources.
"We're trying to get people to step forward and stand up for themselves," said Dana Pavlock of Evercare, the elder service organization that organized the event for the past two years.
Americans older than 60 are a growing population, and offices of the aging are working to meet their needs across the Hudson Valley.
"Educating them, telling them they're not alone, that this happens to other people and it's unacceptable and these are things that you can do," explained Ann Marie Mangione, director of Orange County Office for the Aging.
Organizers are getting younger generations engaged around the issue, like the group Youth Equipped for Success.
"This event today and having youth attend shows that we are bridging the gap," said YES founder Kenya Gadsden.
"I think we should get more people involved and educate more people, because I was not aware that this happened to people," said YES participant Laila Robinson. "I think that would help."