10 Years since UN General Assembly recognised Elder Abuse

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) 15 June, is commemorated each year, to highlight one of the worst manifestations of ageism & inequality in society, elder abuse. UN officially recognized the commemoration day, a decade ago.

Elder abuse is any act which causes harm to an older person and is carried out by someone they know and trust such as a family member or friend. The abuse may be physical, social, financial, psychological or sexual & can include mistreatment and neglect.

In many parts of the world, elder abuse occurs with little recognition or response. It is a global social issue which affects the health, well-being, independence and human rights of millions of older people around the world and an issue which deserves the attention of all in the community.

10 Years since UN General Assembly recognized Elder Abuse

According to the World Health Organisation, prevalence rates or estimates exist only in selected developed countries – ranging from 1 to 10 per cent. Although the extent of elder mistreatment is unknown, its social and moral significance is obvious.

Individuals, communities, municipalities and organisations will come together across the globe to hold events on 15 June that raise awareness of elder abuse.

At Banyule Community Health, positive contributions of older people in our community are celebrated. Residents are encouraged to contact Banyule Community Health if they suspect or know someone is experiencing elder abuse.

Elder abuse can have several physical and emotional effects on an older adult. Many victims suffer physical injuries. Some are minor, like cuts, scratches, bruises, and welts. Others are more serious and can cause lasting disabilities. These include head injuries, broken bones, constant physical pain, and soreness. Physical injuries can also lead to premature death and make existing health problems worse.

Elder abuse can have emotional effects as well. Victims are often fearful and anxious. They may have problems with trust and be wary around others.

10 Years since UN General Assembly recognized Elder Abuse
Elder abuse is an intentional act or failure to act that causes or creates a risk of harm to an older adult. An older adult is someone age 60 or older. The abuse often occurs at the hands of a caregiver or a person the elder trusts. Common types of elder abuse include: 
  • Physical abuse is when an elder experiences illness, pain, injury, functional impairment, distress, or death as a result of the intentional use of physical force and includes acts such as hitting, kicking, pushing, slapping, & burning.
  • Sexual abuse involves forced or unwanted sexual interaction of any kind with an older adult. This may include unwanted sexual contact or penetration or non-contact acts such as sexual harassment.
  • Emotional or Psychological Abuse refers to verbal or nonverbal behaviors that inflict anguish, mental pain, fear, or distress on an older adult. Examples include humiliation or disrespect, verbal & non-verbal threats, harassment & geographic or interpersonal isolation.
  • Neglect is the failure to meet an older adult’s basic needs. These needs include food, water, shelter, clothing, hygiene, and essential medical care.
  • Financial Abuse is the illegal, unauthorized, or improper use of an elder’s money, benefits, belongings, property, or assets for the benefit of someone other than the older adult.
 Elder abuse is associated with several risk and protective factors. However, having these risk factors does not always mean violence will occur. By using a  public health approach that addresses risk and protective factors for multiple types of violence, elder abuse can be prevented.

There are several important things residents can do to prevent elder abuse

    • Listen to older adults & their caregivers to understand their challenges and provide support.
    • Educate oneself and others about how to recognize and report elder abuse.
    • Learn how the signs of elder abuse differ from the normal aging process.
    • Check-in often on older adults who may have few friends and family members.
    • Encourage and assist persons (either caregivers or older adults) having problems with drug or alcohol abuse in getting help.
    • Report abuse or suspected abuse.

Support over-burdened caregivers by providing:

      • help from friends, family, or local relief care groups,
      • adult day care programs,
      • counselling
      • outlets intended to promote emotional well-being.

Visit website  www.seniorsrights.org.au or contact free, confidential Helpline: 1300 368 821.