Editorial: Age friendly strategy has a way to go

By Dylan Thorne


A spike in elder abuse reports shows the Tauranga City Council has a lot of work ahead before it can claim to be New Zealand's first Age Friendly City.

The council is leading a multi-agency team to develop an age-friendly city strategy, based on the World Health Organisation's framework.

It aims to promote "active ageing" by improving the quality of life for people as they age.

However, it emerged this week that reports of elder abuse in the city jumped by almost 50 per cent last year.

The figures show we are a long way from friendly when it comes to the elderly - we're closer to hostile.

Abuse of the elderly should evoke the same level of disgust as the abuse of children.

Tauranga Age Concern received 140 referrals in 2012, compared with 94 in 2011.

The actual rate of abuse is thought to be much higher because most of it goes unreported.

Often it is a family member or a person in a position of trust who carries out the abuse.

On a positive note, the increase in reports does show people are no longer willing to turn a blind eye. This is a good thing.

Lawyer Alan Tate, who provides legal advice to Age Concern says people have finally started to do something about elder abuse.

Earlier this year, the Bay of Plenty Times ran a story about 88-year-old rest-home patient Elleanor Tipler who has dementia. She was made to wear someone else's dirty false teeth after her own were lost.

The story generated a lot of feedback online. People were outraged that she was treated so poorly.

It was clear the person who chose to put someone else's teeth in Mrs Tipler's mouth wasn't concerned with her dignity.

It is doubtful a client with full use of their faculties would have been treated in the same manner.

To their credit, management responded by ensuring staff at the resthome were made to do a refresher course in oral hygiene.

I think readers were shocked by the story because there is a general expectation that elderly are to be treated with respect. The perpatrators of abuse rely on this complacency to keep their offending under the radar.

The rise in reports shows they now have a higher risk of being reported.

The first step in becoming an age friendly society is making sure the elderly are safe and surely this should be the city's focus.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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