World Elder Abuse Awareness Day


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The United Nations has had its eye on the problem of our ageing population for many years now.  They predict that “by 2050 more than 20 per cent of the world’s population will be 60 years old or older” and that “the increase in the number of older people will be greatest and most rapid in the developing world”. (1)

It is a sad fact that not all of those people will be treated well as they age. When we think of the various forms of financial, emotional and physical abuse and exploitation occurring in the world around us, the abuse of the elders in our society is not often top of mind.

In recognising this, the UN General Assembly designated 15th June as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

Ban Ki-moon, as Secretary-General of the United Nations, mentioned elder abuse in his message for 2016. He gave an example of women being accused of witchcraft. Various articles point to this being a strategy for families and communities to seize the property and assets of the accused. We might read these articles and think, “how strange … but that could never happen here.”

Wrong. It is not only in developing countries where elders suffer abuse. Exploitation may take a more subtle form in the first world, but it certainly exists.

In the case of financial abuse this can include pressuring, co-ercing or forcing the elderly person to enter into contracts or arrangements which benefit the younger person but disadvantage the giver.

As well as the obvious: verbal abuse and name-calling, psychological and emotional abuse can include bullying, controlling, threatening, and belittling behaviours, withdrawing affection and attention, or preventing family visits.

Disturbingly, such abuse is most often perpetrated by someone whom the victim knows and trusts –  in other words, it can be their own relatives. This puts the sufferer in a very delicate situation. They may recognise what is happening, but be reluctant to act, preferring to prioritise familial bonds over their own well-being.

Various organisations held events last Thursday to highlight the problem, and what services are available to help. Here are just a few:-

The IRT Foundation (who produces The Good Life programme I was hosting last year), have given a community grant of A$9967 to Legal Aid ACT to provide a solicitor via an outreach service at Canberra Hospital.

Seniors Rights Victoria provides “information, support, advice and education to help prevent elder abuse and safeguard the rights, dignity and independence of older people.” You can see more on their website

And FMC Mediation and Counselling (Victoria) has developed a Respecting Elders service – a confidential process of consultation, support, mediation and conflict resolution.  I recommend you take a few minutes to watch their video which explains the situation and their service in more detail.

There are many more organisations springing up around the globe. If you are interested in finding what services are available in your area, one place to look would be an internet search on ‘Elder Abuse’ or ‘World Elder Abuse Awareness Day’. Your local doctor or seniors organisation may also have information.

(1) United Nations General Assembly, 9 Mar 2012, A/RES/66/127

older woman-743885_1280

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9 thoughts on “World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

  1. I don’t think the people of my generation are as likely to get caught by the spivs, as the generations that follow are, That might just be me, but we’re a bit more skeptical I think; perhaps because we came from the depression years. I know anyone tries to con me gets short shrift; I sniff them out instantly.

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    • Beware the enemy within! Here are some figures from the National Ageing Research Institute of Seniors Rights Victoria: Victims – 72.5 % female; perpetrators 60% / 40% male/female. 92% of abuse perpetrated by relatives or de-factos with 67% of that being a child of the older person (40% / 27% son/daughter). As the report says, “look no further than the Christmas dinner table”. A very sad indictment on society and a growing scourge around the world. The real heartbreak in this situation is that people who may be very wary of strangers and their scheming, it is the ones they trust that are ripping them off.

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    • I agree. One of the interviews I did on The Good Life programme was with a doctor, and we were talking about Advanced Care planning. This goes beyond the simple ‘do not resuscitate’ instruction. I could send you a link to a sample form if you were interested. Although, being as how you are currently on a fabulous trip, and enjoying every moment living ‘in the moment’, I suspect it might be something for another day 🙂


  2. I think many scam calls and e-mails are aimed at conning elders. With that in mind, when I’m in the mood, I have developed fun techniques for keeping callers on the line, masquerading as a silly old buffer of an Alf Garnet, throwing in a few innits. It works a treat because they think they’ve got a likely mug. I usually finish up by telling them impolitely to go away.

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    • I’ve started to say, ‘just a moment, I’ll turn the computer on / go get my purse / etc etc etc; and then I just put the phone down and go about my business, leaving them on the other end to say, ‘hello, hello – are you there?’, until they hang up. They are playing the odds, and they do get their victims. But the type of abuse being targeted by the organisations in this post are more insidious. This can be the indebted sons, daughters, in-laws who get you to go guarantor on their loan, or misuse your power-of-attorney, or tell you to come live with them, then isolate you in a granny flat while they renovate their house with the proceeds of the sale of your house; or continually threaten to put you in a nursing home if you don’t do things their way, etc, etc, etc. Often they have substance abuse or gambling problems themselves, or their relationships are already teetering on collapse; and they manipulate the trust of a parent. Scary stuff.

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