WILLIAMSBURG, Iowa (WHO) — Governor Kim Reynolds signed a bill today that makes elder abuse a crime in Iowa. The bill, SF 522, passed unanimously in both Iowa Legislature chambers during the 2022 session.

Gov. Reynolds signed the bill at the Highland Ridge Senior Living Community center in Williamsburg with AARP of Iowa and other advocacy groups. Anthony Carrol, AARP Iowa Advocacy Manager, said the group has been fighting for elder abuse legislation for years.

“We know this new law will be an important tool for helping put a stop to existing abuse and hopefully preventing it in the future,” Carrol said.

Iowa has previously criminalized the abuse of dependent adults with caretakers, but it didn’t include protection against financial exploitations of the elder population. AARP Iowa states that the most reported form of elder abuse is financial exploitation, which is often accompanied with emotional or physical abuse.

The new bill establishes the financial exploitation of an older individual as a criminal offense. The penalties would range from a serious misdemeanor or a felony.

The bill also includes enhanced penalties for assault of an older individual and theft against an older individual when the person is targeted because of their age.

The new law will take effect on July 1, 2022.

If you or someone you know is experiencing elder abuse you can call 1-866-468-7887 to be connected with an Elder Rights Specialist. You can also visit the Area Agencies on Aging, an elder abuse resource center, for help with your situation.