World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2023, new resources, research on older women's experiences

Fri 23 Jun 2023

The government has announced new resources and advance notice of a tender related to elder abuse. In observance of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, we highlight research about gender based violence later in life. 

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World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day takes place every year on 15 June.

Te Tari Kaumātua | Office for Seniors has updated their digital resources for raising awareness. They have also developed 3 short videos on the signs of elder abuse and 2 short publications on the signs of psychological abuse and neglect among older people. Minister for Seniors, Ginny Andersen, also shared a video message highlighting the Elder Abuse Response Service.

Age Concern New Zealand raises awareness of elder abuse across the week 15-22 June. Age Concern New Zealand Chief Executive Karen Billings-Jensen says "...we hope that our 'Break the Silence' campaign will encourage more people to speak up about this important issue."

For questions or help, contact the Elder Abuse Response service on 0800 32 668 65, text 5032 or email, or contact Age Concern at 0800 65 2 105 or contact your local Age Concern for services in your area.

Research on gender based violence later in life

In observance of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, several UN, WHO and international experts spoke in a webinar on Closing the Circle: Addressing Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in Older Age Policy, Law and Evidence-based Responses. Watch the video recording online and see the concept note for speakers and topics. The webinar addresses gaps in research, funding, policies and legal responses to elder abuse as well as the intersection of ageism with gender based violence.

UN human rights experts also issued a joint statement calling for inclusive data collection to end gender-based violence in old age, saying:

"Gender-based violence does not disappear with age, but often goes unnoticed and under-reported due to gaps in evidence collection. Violence against older women is the result of structural and deep-rooted discrimination and inequality based on the intersection of sex, gender and age."

They also highlight the lack of data of gender-based violence against older lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex women.

They further state:

"A narrow age range in data collection therefore renders the lived realities of older women invisible and fails to provide evidence of the challenges they are facing. ...Although some findings indicate that the prevalence of gender-based violence decreases with age, such an assertion could be misleading given data limitations and underreporting of such cases.

"Such an approach results in a significant gap in the understanding of gender-based violence in old age, leading to inappropriate legal and policy protections to tackle these issues, as well as gaps in services available to older survivors.

"Ageism contributes to the increased risk of violence and abuse faced by older women, especially those with disabilities, including physical, psychological, verbal and financial abuse and violence, as well as social isolation and exclusion."

The Canada-based Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children highlighted that when abuse is viewed within age-specific limits "...the violence experienced by women who are older is rendered invisible and their voices are silenced" in their newsletter Issues 18: Violence against women who are older (2016).

International research indicates that women continue to disproportionately experience intimate partner violence and sexual violence across their lifespan including later in life. This has significant impacts on their health and wellbeing, as well as increased challenges to accessing help due to the intersection of ageism, ableism, gender based discrimination and other forms of discrimination. Older women's experiences of violence and abuse are also different to younger populations.

Researchers and advocates have been increasingly documenting women's experiences later in life. Below we highlight some of the international research that has explored older women's experiences of violence including intimate partner violence and sexual violence:

For research and reports from Aotearoa New Zealand, see this custom search of our library database for older women, older people or elder abuse. The 2019 NZ Family Violence Study | He Koiora Matapopore included people over the age of 50.

Elder Voices is a current research project exploring life for Takatāpui and Rainbow Elders from Hohou Te Rongo Kahukura | Outing Violence and Rainbow Hub Waikato. The team shared early findings at the Cross Agency Rainbow Network (CARN) Conference 2023. Also see Hohou Te Rongo Kahukura | Outing Violence's August newsletter for reflections from attending the CARN conference.

Also see the Family Violence Death Review Committee Input (2023) for the report of the UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons.

You can also search our library database for more research and related issues including post-separation, long term impacts of violence, and cumulative risk and experience of violence.

Our 2022 World Elder Abuse Awareness Day news story, also highlighted UN and WHO reports addressing age, gender and violence.

Update: The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) published a policy brief on Older Persons in Vulnerable Situations in June 2023.

Related news

MSD initiatives related to elder abuse

The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) released an advance notice of an upcoming funding opportunity for service providers to support Māori, Pacific, and Ethnic older people who are experiencing or at risk of elder abuse in the following regions: Auckland, Waikato, Wellington and Canterbury. For more information see the Advance Notice for additional Elder Abuse Response Services in four regions on GETS (reference 27508675). The MSD June 2023 Family Violence and Sexual Violence email update has more information. For questions email Other recently closed MSD requests for proposals include developing a screening tool for abuse of older people and qualitative research on cultural perspectives on abuse of older people. These requests for proposals closed in early June 2023. 

Government response to UN expert report on rights of older persons 

The Government released documents in May 2023 responding to recommendations from the United Nations Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons following her visit in March 2020. The Cabinet Paper - Report of the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons: New Zealand Response represents a formal statement of government positions on the human rights of older persons in New Zealand. See more information on Te Tari Kaumātua | Officer for Seniors website.

New research on disadvantage among older people

A new research report used the IDI (Integrated Data Infrastructure) to look at experiences of multiple disadvantage among older people in Aotearoa New Zealand. This was a joint project of MSD, the Social Wellbeing Agency | Toi Hau Tāngata and the Ministry of Health. The report, Older people experiencing vulnerability and multiple disadvantage in New Zealand: A report on the needs of older people (65+) in health, housing, finance, social connection, and access (2023) is available from the Social Wellbeing Agency.

Related media

Strong indigenous rights perspective needed in 'strengthening older people’s rights', Media release: Te Kāhui Tika Tangata Human Rights Commission, 25.08.2023

Age Friendly Fund Now Open, Press Release: Office for Seniors, Scoop, 02.08.2023

Research reveals alarming ageism against elderly within health sector, One News, 21.06.2023

Greater action is needed to end violence against older women in the UNECE region, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) news, 15.06.2023

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (June 15) from Pasefika Proud, 15.06.2023

Ageing in Aotearoa, new findings from the longitudinal study, RNZ, 08.06.2023

Image: Tim Foster on Unsplash

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