Protecting the elderly is an issue close to Judith Tamkin’s heart.

The noted philanthropist has made it a top priority to tackle elder abuse, an increasingly important issue as America’s older adult population grows.

“I want to make sure others have a chance,” Tamkin said. “When they feel helpless, I want them to know they have somewhere to turn, someone to talk to and someplace to go.”

A generous gift from Tamkin to the Keck School of Medicine of USC will establish an annual international symposium on elder abuse and provide scholarships for a group of Keck School students, the Tamkin Scholars, and others to attend the conference. A website will be created to provide resources and information for researchers and those caring for older adults.

The Tamkin gift will close gaps on elder abuse research and move the field forward through education, awareness and strong community partnerships.

“This generous gift will launch USC into a new phase of research and education,” said Laura Mosqueda, MD, chair of the Department of Family Medicine and professor of family medicine and geriatrics at the Keck School of Medicine. “Working together, we can prevent and eradicate elder abuse. We will be working to create awareness toward this important and devastating issue that impacts so many people.”

To be held Sept. 15 and 16 at the Concourse Hotel in Los Angeles, the inaugural USC Judith D. Tamkin Symposium on Elder Abuse will unite thought leaders from across the globe and from a multitude of disciplines, and will provide a forum to improve the lives of elders by expanding dialogue, disseminating findings and stimulating training, policy development and engagement.

“We’re going to make sure our children will protect us as we age — not only because they want to, but because it’s the right thing to do,” said Tamkin who, along with her late husband S. Jerome Tamkin, MD, has been a longtime donor to a broad range of charitable causes.

The Tamkin gift was announced during a celebratory luncheon March 29 at the California Club in downtown Los Angeles.

Elder abuse can take many forms — physical abuse, neglect, emotional or verbal abuse and financial abuse, according to the Los Angeles County Elder Abuse Forensic Center, an organization that partners with the USC Davis School of Gerontology and the Keck School of Medicine.

Keck Medicine is a leader in research surrounding gerontology and issues affecting the country’s aging population. The Keck School of Medicine in 2014 was named sole grant recipient to become the National Center on Elder Abuse, part of the Administration on Community Living in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Adults over the age of 85 represent the country’s fastest growing population. By 2060, there will be about 98 million older adults in the U.S., more than twice the number in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

About one in 10 of the country’s older adults will be a victim of abuse, said Mosqueda, a widely respected authority on geriatric and family medicine, elder abuse and care of the elderly and underserved.

The Tamkin gift will bring experts together to find answers to questions surrounding elder abuse that have been asked for 30 years, Mosqueda added.

“Together we will solve the thorny issues surrounding elder abuse,” Mosqueda said. “We’ll do right in Mrs. Tamkin’s confidence in us and help make the world a better place.”

— Douglas Morino