Stop the elder abuse 

15 June 2020

Today is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD), a day designated by the United Nations Generally Assembly in 2011 to highlight globally and voice opposition to the abuse and suffering inflicted on some of our older generations.

“I call upon governments and all concerned actors to design and carry out more effective prevention strategies and stronger laws and policies to address all aspects of elder abuse. Let us work together to optimise living conditions for older persons and enable them to make the greatest possible contribution to our world.’” Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The issue of elder abuse is particularly relevant in the current pandemic environment. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says COVID-19 is causing untold fear and suffering for older people across the world. “Beyond its immediate health impact, the pandemic is putting older people at greater risk of poverty, discrimination and isolation. It is likely to have a particularly devastating impact on older people in developing countries,’’ he said.

According to the UN, older people are at a significantly higher risk of mortality and severe disease following COVID-19 infection, with those over 80 years old dying at five times the average rate. An estimated 66% of people aged 70 and over have at least one underlying condition, placing them at increased risk of severe impact from COVID-19.

In 2017, 1 in 6 older persons were subjected to abuse. With lockdowns and reduced care, violence against older persons is on the rise, the UN says.

The United Nations defines elder abuse as “a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person. It is a global social issue which affects the health and human rights of millions of older persons around the world, and an issue which deserves the attention of the international community.

 “As such, it demands a global multifaceted response, one which focuses on protecting the rights of older persons.

“From a health and social perspectives, unless both primary health care and social service sectors are well equipped to identify and deal with the problem, elder abuse will continue to be underdiagnosed and overlooked.’’

The South Australian Government, through the Office for Ageing Well,  continues to raise community awareness of elder abuse through its annual Stop Elder Abuse campaign.
The 2020 campaign, which culminates today, aimed to educate the community on the signs of elder abuse, and where they can seek advice and assistance or to make a report.

The Advertiser reports South Australia’s elder abuse support services are reporting a spike in calls and referrals during COVID-19. Services say financial and psychological abuse from adult children returning to the family home is partly behind the rise.
Around one in 20 older Australians is experiencing some form of abuse from someone they know and trust, who is often a member of their own family.
In South Australia, financial and psychological abuse are the most common, with older women more likely to be experiencing abuse from adult sons or daughters.
People experiencing elder abuse may display fear, sadness and neglect, amongst other signs, and abuse can also be physical, sexual, chemical or emotional.
If people do have concerns, call the SA Elder Abuse Prevention Phone Line on 1800 372 310 for free, confidential advice and support, or make a report to the Adult Safeguarding Unit.

For more information go to

The aged care industry has long been plagued by reports of elder neglect or abuse. One Australian expert recently called for an investigation into how aged care facilities spend their money, citing a “horrifying” appraisal of staffing levels. Click here for more information on appraisal of staffing levels.

“The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (SA Branch) recognises that elder abuse is a shocking and often hidden issue in society,’’ ANMF (SA Branch) Adj. Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM said.

“We wholeheartedly support all efforts to promote awareness of and to combat this tragic social problem and encourage others to report to appropriate authorities when they suspect abuse may be occurring,’’ she said.
“We are hopeful that the ANMF’s recommendations to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety will help engender a radical revitalisation of an industry that has in many cases put profit before the quality care of our vulnerable elderly community.’’