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On World Elder Abuse Day (15 June) take a stand against elder abuse

Posted on 14 June 2018
On World Elder Abuse Day (15 June) take a stand against elder abuse

By Jasmin Dhillon,

Having recently witnessed a situation involving the reporting of elder abuse to a State government owned entity and seeing the despair and hopelessness firsthand, in that older person's eyes; I thought it a good time to reflect on this distressing and growing societal issue.  Currently, in Victoria, 1.25 million people are aged over 60, accounting for more than 20 per cent of the population. By 2031, our older population is set to increase, comprising 22 per cent of the population in Greater Melbourne and 31 per cent in regional and rural Victoria. 41% of Victorians aged over 65 and 46% of those aged over 85 were born overseas. Unsurprisingly, the victims of elder abuse are mostly women (72.5%).

We will all inevitably be a part of the above statistics one day, and although Elder abuse is a complex issue and experiences of elder abuse vary for people from different cultures, we can all play an active role in helping to minimise its prevalence within our sphere of influence.

Seniors Rights Victoria defines elder abuse as, 'any act which causes harm to an older person and is carried out by someone they know and trust, such as family or friends. It includes financial, emotional, physical, social or sexual abuse and neglect'. It may involve taking someone's money of possessions, not providing necessary care, making threats or stopping an older person's social contact, as well as physical or sexual abuse. Sadly, 60% of perpetrators are adult sons and daughters.

It is believed that elder abuse occurs due to ageism in our society, which negatively impacts on the way we respect older people. Adult children may have a sense of entitlement 'inheritance impatience', or as with many families there can be mental health problems, alcohol and other drug, gambling problems or an inability to cope with the person's care needs. The Australian Human Rights Commission reported that around 34% of Australians aged 55-65 years and 43% of Australians aged over 65 years have experienced age discrimination.

Although, the above information sounds alarming and too tough to tackle, and the Victorian Budget 2018/19 includes $26.6 investment in public aged care services, and $6 million to tackle elder abuse by extending the trial of an integrated model of care.

We can all play a role in reducing this unfortunate societal trend.

  • First, we can be aware of our own unconscious bias when making hiring decisions, such as respecting the wealth of experience and knowledge older applicants possess.
  • Second, improving visibility of our ageing population by involving older people in community events and acknowledging their role in society and the importance of the contribution they have made.
  • Third, be vigilant and make an effort to talk to older people, many feel isolated and disconnected, making them easy targets for abuse. A simple hello and check-in can help more than you realise, and you may learn something of value.
  • Lastly, if you think elder abuse may be occurring refer the elder person to Seniors Rights Victoria's confidential Helpline: 1300 368 821.
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