World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is commemorated each year on 15 June to highlight one of the worst manifestations of ageism and inequality in our society, elder abuse.
Elder abuse is any act which causes harm to an older person and is often 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, and can include mistreatment and neglect.
It is a global social issue which affects the health, wellbeing, independence and human rights of millions of older people around the world, and an issue which deserves the attention of all in the community.
Hepburn Shire has a higher proportion of people over the age of 60 (34%) compared to the rest of Victoria (21%) and it is estimated that the population over 60 will double by 2050.
Mayor, Cr Lesley Hewitt, said that older people are essential to the fabric of our society, particularly in small communities such as those in our Shire.
“We have a high proportion of elderly people in our Shire,” said Cr Hewitt. “They have made a lifetime contribution to their communities and they continue to contribute especially through the volunteering they do in the community, the care they provide for family members and the wisdom gained by experience that they provide for those around them.”
“At the same time, some are vulnerable because of declining physical and mental health and it’s these elders who are the victims of abuse both in the community and in aged care facilities. By raising awareness of this issue, we can all play a role in protecting aged people from this abuse.”
According to the World Health Organisation, the risk for elders is higher in institutional care but is also common in community settings. Individuals with poor physical or mental health are at higher risk. Abuse commonly occurs by spouses or children in a shared living arrangement. Financial dependency, drug and alcohol problems and mental disorders increase the risk that someone will abuse. Social isolation and the related lack of social support increases risk from caregivers.
Public and professional awareness campaigns are in important aspect of prevention. Caregiver training and support interventions are helpful as is screening of victims and caregivers.
Seniors Rights Victoria provides information, support, advice and education to help prevent elder abuse and safeguard the rights, dignity and independence of older people.
Anyone experiencing elder abuse can contact a free and confidential Helpline: 1300 368 821.
More information is also available online at https://elderabuseawarenessday.org.au/