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Saturday, June 25, 2022

Calling out physical, financial, and mental wrongdoing on Elder Abuse Awareness Day

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Today is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD), a day designed to raise awareness and unite in our efforts to stamp out the physical, financial, and mental abuse that too many of our older citizens experience.

Elder Abuse Action Australia (EAAA), the national voice dedicated to ending the abuse and neglect of older people across Australia, wishes to highlight the importance of taking action on this disturbing phenomenon, which is estimated to affect one in six Australians aged over 65 years of age.

This equates to 600,000 people who are at risk and/or experiencing a form of elder abuse.

The data comes from the National Elder Abuse Prevalence Study, which according to Jenny Blakey, EAAA co-chair, is evidence of a community in which ageism is rife.   

“World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is to affirm the value of older people and their rights to be respected,” she says.

“No-one at any age should be subject to abuse. Ageism can belittle older people and result in a lack of action to tackle elder abuse.”

Jenny Blakey, EAAA co-chair, says that rampant ageism in society is contributing to elder abuse going under the radar.

Shockingly, the abuse is most often perpetrated by an elder’s own family member, most commonly an adult child — which accounts for more than a third of all abuse cases.

Children who perpetrate abuse against their older parent are more likely than not to be unemployed, and in 72 per cent of cases have one of more issues pertaining to drug or alcohol abuse, gambling, mental health issues or financial problems.

However, when looking at Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) elders specifically, friends were more likely to be the source of abuse, responsible for 17.6 per cent of cases compared to 12.5 per cent attributable to children.

Australia needs to reconsider how we treat and respond to older people. The abuse and neglect of older people is a shameful reflection on our nation and will continue to worsen unless urgent action is taken.

Executive director of EAAA, Bev Lange

Sadly, many elders experiencing abuse suffer in silence, with 61 per cent not seeking help — especially in relation neglect and sexual abuse.

What can we do to stop this disturbing phenomenon?

The 7th National Elder Abuse Conference in February saw the identification of a range of priority areas, for which policies remain unactioned.

Bev Lange, executive director of EAAA, says that her organisation’s very existence is indicative of the disturbing scale of this abhorrent social issue.

“Australia needs to reconsider how we treat and respond to older people,” Lange says.

“The abuse and neglect of older people is a shameful reflection on our nation and will continue to worsen unless urgent action is taken.”

Bev Lange, EAAA’s executive director, says that it’s a tragedy that organisation’s such as Elder Abuse Action Australia have to exist, indicating that society’s attitudes to older Australians are in desperate need of reform.

Lange says that in order to reduce the prevalence of elder abuse, a policy overhaul must occur, which should involve:  

  1. Strengthened frontline services – Create equitable access to services so that all older people can obtain support across prevention, early intervention, response, and recovery.
  2. Investment in research – Determine the economic impact of elder abuse and neglect so we understand its true cost, and address the gaps in the elder abuse prevalence study.
  3. Improving education and focusing on prevention – Invest in primary prevention and awareness campaigns that address ageism, empower older people, and promote respect across the generations.
  4. Harmonising laws and procedures – Address the mess of inconsistency across states and government departments that generates confusion and unfairness for older people.
  5. Giving older people a voice – Prioritise the stories and experiences of seniors through every step of the process towards an abuse-free Australia.

Useful community resources on Elder Abuse

Compass is an online hub of resources developed by EAAA, bringing together the best resources and information on elder abuse from across the country.

Most notably, Compass offers a hotline for elders and their carers who require direct assistance — call 1800 ELDERHelp (1800 353 374).

The website also provides a range of articles to help build awareness on how to understand, prevent and respond to elder abuse, as well as a podcast series that features insights from a multi-disciplinary team of experts.     

Compass also gives voice to those who have experienced elder abuse first hand, with a variety of brave accounts available to read via this link.

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