It is hoped marking a world awareness day and week in Rotorua will help to shed more light on an "unseen epidemic".

Age Concern and Family Focus is raising awareness of elder abuse during Elder Abuse Awareness Week from June 15 to 22, beginning on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, June 15.

Elder abuse is a violation of human rights and a significant cause of injury, illness, lost productivity, isolation and despair.

Age Concern Rotorua marks this day every year as part of a worldwide collaboration to highlight this dreadful and often hidden type of abuse.

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Age Concern Rotorua manager Rory O'Rourke says they will listen to people's concerns, respect the wishes of the older person affected, and always make sure the safety and wellbeing of the older person is the main consideration.

"We will then refer cases on or ask people to go directly to Family Focus who have the contract for elder abuse in Rotorua.

"What that means in reality is working together with an aim to resolve concerns co-operatively.

"We aim to find ways to support older people to live safely, make their own decisions and be respected," says O'Rourke.

He says it is important elder abuse is brought into the open and talked about.

"Elder abuse is the unseen epidemic that elderly do not report because of a variety of reasons, dependent on abuser, low self-esteem, don't want make a fuss, afraid of consequences, isolation, don't know how to ask for help, ashamed or self-blame.

"Elderly need to feel that they will be listened to and their concerns respected."

He says during Elder Abuse Awareness Week members and volunteers of Age Concern Rotorua will be outside Countdown Fairy Springs on June 18, available to talk to people about elder abuse and volunteering, as well as signing up Dignity Champions.

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Dignity Champions are people who reject stereotypes, speak out, question disrespect, don't patronise, are patient, polite and friendly, have zero tolerance for abuse and are relationship builders.

O'Rourke says since it is also Volunteer Week they will be taking their volunteers to the movies and shouting them morning tea during the week.

Family Focus will be in the atrium at the Rotorua Hospital for the week to discuss and give out information about elder abuse.

"We would hope that by putting it out there in the community that more elderly who are suffering abuse will come forward, and more people who may be witnessing elder abuse will report it to someone who can help.

"Because abuse has many guises sometimes it is difficult for outsiders to pick that someone they know is being abused, so educating them on how to identify abuse is just as important.

O'Rourke says Family Focus is the organisation with the contract to deal with elderly abuse but many of the Age Concerns around the country do have the contract.

"Needless to say many people come to us as a first port of call and we will listen with a sympathetic ear, assess, respect their concerns and if we can help, will, or refer them to Family Focus.

"In any given week we will have an average of two or three concerns about elder abuse come to the office or phone."

If you suspect and older person is not being treated well or want to report abuse please contact Age Concern on 07 3471539 or Family Focus on (07) 3462096.

If you are experiencing a crisis or emergency, and someone's safety is at risk please call the emergency services on 111.