First World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

June 15th is the first ever World Elder Abuse Awareness Day and in New Zealand Age Concern are calling for New Zealanders to speak out against elder abuse. “Preventing elder abuse is a national issue. It is everybody’s business”, Betty Jeanne Eydt, spokesperson from Age Concern New Zealand said. Elder abuse includes emotional/psychological, physical, sexual and financial abuse. It happens at home and in residential care. Most elder abuse is hidden. “Elder abuse was like partner abuse and child abuse twenty years ago, people didn’t believe it happened and wanted the evidence. We have it” says Ms Eydt. Up to 10% of older New Zealanders may have experienced some form of elder abuse or neglect. Age Concern say that while no specific studies have been undertaken in New Zealand, overseas research indicates that between 3% and 10% of the older population (which would be 13,500 to 45,000 people in this country) have experienced some form of abuse or neglect. However, much abuse goes unreported. It has been estimated that only 16% of all abuse incidents reach service agencies. These referrals represent only the “tip of the iceberg” says Ms Eydt. Most often the abuser is a family member. “Our analysis of elder abuse and neglect cases shows most abusers (70%) are family/whanau members, most commonly sons or daughters (40%),” Ms Eydt said. Age Concern councils around the country are holding a variety of events to raise awareness of elder abuse and to encourage families and carers to treat older people with greater respect and dignity. Age Concern calls for the whole community to act to challenge ageist attitudes which are used to justify abusive behaviour. Not respecting older people’s right to care, dignity, independence, participation and self-fulfilment is abuse. In cases of financial abuse, abusers often justify theft from an older person saying that dad or grandfather doesn’t need his big house anymore or that they’ve had their day. “We have a unique opportunity in Aotearoa/New Zealand to move forward together to make a difference, to challenge ageist attitudes, to create an environment where older people feel safe and valued and where those working with older people are valued,” Ms Eydt said. Age Concern is a major provider of elder abuse and neglect prevention services, including free, confidential support, advocacy and information to older people at risk of abuse; education for those working with and caring for older people; and public awareness raising activities aimed at early identification and prevention of elder abuse or neglect. For more information about elder abuse, including fact sheets and leaflets, and for 15 June events around the country, see www.ageconcern.org.nz. Some events include a free seminar being held in Hamilton at the Celebrating Age Centre (30 Victoria St Hamilton) from 9.30am to 12.30pm where a range of issues to do with safety and protection for elders are being discussed by Age Concern, NZ Police and Law Society. In Christchurch, seminar and public display is being held at Hagley Netball Pavilion from 10.30 to 3pm. It will be opened by Hon Ruth Dyson, and will include speakers from Age Concern, NZ Police, and the DHB. If you are concerned about elder abuse contact your local Elder Abuse and Neglect Prevention Service for free confidential information and support. For contact details call your local Age Concern in the phone book, or look on www.ageconcern.org.nz  .

Go to the international website for more resources - World Elder Abuse Awareness Day