Age Concern deplores elder abuse

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IMPORTANT CAUSE: June Shutt (left), Margaret Shaw and Gayle Hill, raising funds for Age Concern Kaitaia and District and awareness of the scourge of elder abuse in Kaitaia on Tuesday.
IMPORTANT CAUSE: June Shutt (left), Margaret Shaw and Gayle Hill, raising funds for Age Concern Kaitaia and District and awareness of the scourge of elder abuse in Kaitaia on Tuesday.

Age Concern New Zealand chief executive Stephanie Clare says her organisation will continue to do all it can to prevent elder abuse. But it cannot do the job alone.

Ms Clare said her organisation received 2000 referrals of elder abuse every year, including financial, psychological, and even physical abuse.

"And we cannot stand for this any longer," she said.

"It's a startling and upsetting truth that Age Concern is receiving eight referrals of elder abuse every working day. Seventy-five per cent of cases are committed by family members, and almost half by adult children. This is one of the reasons it stays hidden.

"Many older people feel ashamed that their own flesh and blood is treating them badly, so they won't talk about it."

"Some people think that because someone is old it doesn't matter what happens to them any more, or they don't need money to spend," Kaitaia and Districts Age Concern manager Julie Moebus said.

"They make decisions for the older person without even asking them what it is they want. Or they ridicule them about the decisions they do make. Sometimes they pressure older people into doing things they don't really want to do, like giving a loan, selling their house or letting a family member move in with them for free.

"Attitudes like these show a lack of respect for the older person, for their quality of life and for their needs."

Age Concern was now using Elder Abuse Awareness Week (which starts tomorrow) to call for help in putting the spotlight on "this terrible and shameful issue".

Ms Clare said Age Concern's Elder Abuse and Neglect Prevention (EANP) teams worked closely with older people and their families to resolve issues of abuse, and to ensure it did not re-occur.

It also worked in communities to educate people about the signs and effects of abuse, to help prevent it from happening and teaching how to challenge disrespectful attitudes towards older people.

"We can challenge disrespectful attitudes towards older people by promoting respect," she said.

"Love and cherish your older relatives, respect and honour their wisdom, include them in your plans and social activities, encourage them to make their own decisions and let them set their own pace."

"We all need to keep an eye out for elder abuse in our communities.

"Don't let fear of meddling in someone else's business stop you from voicing your concern. It is time to stop elder abuse in our communities, and if we all pull together we can achieve this."

Age Concern was encouraging people to take the opportunity of Elder Abuse Awareness Week to get in touch with their older relatives, to check in with them and see how they are doing.

More about the issue, and what can be done about it, can be found at www.ageconcern.org.nz, which also has details of the Elder Abuse and Neglect Prevention Service.

- Northland Age

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