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SHIPROCK — Dozens of Navajo senior citizens listened to speeches on Wednesday focusing on preventing elderly abuse.

The message was shared at the Shiprock Chapter house during Stop Elder Abuse Awareness Day, an event organized by the Shiprock office of the Navajo Area Agency on Aging.

The Northern Agency is home to 16 senior citizen centers, and each one provides services, including meals, transportation and recreational activities, to Navajos who are 60 and older.

Judy James traveled to Wednesday's event with a group from the Cove Senior Citizen Center in Arizona.

James, 68, said she attended the event to learn about health and nutrition.

Staff from programs like the Navajo Nation Special Diabetes Project were at booths at the event to share information. Special Diabetes Project personnel relayed facts about nutrition and demonstrated how to create healthy snacks, like fruit smoothies.

"I like going to all the different places where the senior center takes us," James said, adding that events like Elder Fest, which takes place locally in conjunction with the Northern Navajo Nation Fair in Shiprock, allow seniors to socialize.

Dewayne Johnson, Shiprock Navajo Area Agency on Aging's program supervisor, said Wednesday's event was part of the agency's ongoing effort to educate the public about preventing elderly abuse.

"We need to take care of one another, and only through public education, we can make improvements," Johnson said.

He said abuse can manifest itself in physical, verbal, mental and financial forms, as well as neglect. One example of neglect, he said, is when family members fail to provide their senior relatives with necessary coal or firewood during the winter.

"Every now and then, we hear that there are some elders who died from coal exposure, no firewood, lack of attention or lack of care," Johnson said.

Annie Harvey works with the Teec Nos Pos Senior Citizen Center and traveled to the Stop Elder Abuse Awareness Day event with seven senior citizens from Arizona.

Harvey said the event provides an opportunity to discuss elder abuse and teach seniors that they need to report it to authorities.

"'They're not alone,' that's what we tell them," Harvey said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and nsmith@daily-times.com. Follow her @nsmithdt on Twitter.

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