Age Concern Hawke's Bay is calling for more to be done about elder abuse after several high profile cases have made recent headlines.

In July, 87-year-old retired retailer and orchardist David Geor was kidnapped in the Countdown Hastings carpark, by a man and woman forcing him to let them take money from his bank account before abandoning him trapped in the back of his hatchback in another carpark.

Manager Deborah Biggs said for years people did not know elder abuse occurred and to some extent, some still don't.

In the last financial year, from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018, 162 cases were opened - up 76 on the previous year. In July, they opened 18 new cases.


However, despite this, Biggs said it was hard to quantify because many people were "probably being abused but not saying anything".

Age Concern Hawke's Bay has two social workers, who work a combined 60 hours a week and cover Havelock North, Hastings, Flaxmere, Napier and Central Hawke's Bay. Wairoa has its own branch, with one social worker.

"The number of abuse cases have increased and we are under-resourced. There is
so much other work we could do; we could be working in the communities and strengthening older peoples groups."

They work with consent, meaning sometimes when they see cases of abuse towards elders who do not want anything done, they cannot intervene.

A social worker, who did not wish to be named, said most abuse they saw was associated with the housing crisis, where families moved in with their older relatives.

"With so much pressure on housing they are forced to share their homes with people they wouldn't necessarily choose to normally," she said.

"They can't bare the thought of their family being homeless so they think they'll put up with it, but often it is to the detriment of their own health."

She said often the older person would have to move out of their bedroom to make way for a younger family member, losing control of their eftpos card, to be used as "family money" on top of rent or mortgage repayments.

"It is pretty prevalent. Whether it is increasing, I don't know, but there is a lot of that out there and you will have these older people living half lives in their own home.

"There needs to be a bigger investment in elder abuse because when you compare the resources put into child abuse with the resources put into elder abuse, they are not comparable."

As a direct result, Biggs said they are getting ready to launch a programme called "Lets share" - essentially an inter-generational flatting scenario.

Ministry of Social Development group general manager community, partnerships and programmes, Marama Edwards said one in 10 New Zealanders over 65 will experience some form of elder abuse.

Since launching their elder abuse helpline 0800 EA NOT OK in July last year, they have received more than 1700 calls nationwide.

Of these calls, the biggest age group to get in touch are 65-74-year-olds.

Edwards said across the age groups, 63 per cent of callers identify as women and 33 per cent as men. Where region is known, 1.4 per cent of callers are from Hawke's Bay.

"Our older people have the right to feel safe. Elder abuse is not specific to any one gender, religion, ethnicity, or income group. It may happen at home, in residential care, or in hospitals."

She said although abuse can be physical, financial, sexual and psychological, "more than half of all cases involve financial abuse, most often at the hands of family members".

"Some elder financial abuse makes the news headlines but the majority goes unreported."

Signs of elder abuse may include:
• Fear of a particular person or people
• Worry, anxiety or irritability
• Depression or withdrawal
• Disturbed sleep
• Changes in eating habits
• Reluctance to talk openly, or others speaking for them