12 Jun 2019

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day this Saturday

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 1:17 pm on 12 June 2019

When we think of abuse, we think of physical or sexual violation and – although that does happen – elder abuse most often happens in more subtle ways.

Elderly man. Walking frame. Retirement home.

Photo: 123RF

Up to 10 percent of the elderly experience elder abuse and it’s most often perpetrated by family members.

Educator Hanny Naus joined Jesse Mulligan to explain exactly how elder abuse manifests, and what you can do to help stop it.

Naus explains that the term elder abuse covers any harm or stress caused to an older person by a person or organisation that they trust.

“Often, it’s under the radar and starts off very small,” Naus says.

 “People automatically think it happens in a terrible rest home, but the reality is that within our families, even if older people are not living with their families, the possibility of being abused by family members is much greater.”

Naus said abuse is often able to go on for long periods because older people don’t want to lose contact with the younger generation and may be in a situation where they rely on their care.

Elder abuse commonly begins with family members taking money and mobility from elders, for instance by using their cars.

“Often in our society, ageism is such an undercurrent. What happens is older people are seen as the generation who are no longer being economically productive, they’ve had it good all their lives, often they’ve got their own homes and younger people are struggling with deposits.

"There’s an underlying belief that older people don’t need it; it doesn’t matter if they don’t get new clothes, they don’t need hearing aids, don’t need their teeth repaired – because they’re old, so why do they need that?”

Naus says physical abuse happens in around one in five cases of elder abuse. It’s more prevalent to see things like money being taken and medication or medical treatment withheld.

She says that, with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, Age Concern wants New Zealanders to appreciate that it’s a much broader issue than what hits the headlines.

Naus says anyone who is concerned about elder abuse can contact Age Concern and they can talk to families.

“The one thing that older people don’t want is to speak up about elder abuse if it’s going to be at the cost of their family connection, so we’re much more concerned that family connections can stay together.”

This Saturday marks World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, and Age Concern has launched a new quiz to help people better understand this plight.

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