What is elder abuse?

What does Elder Abuse look like?
When people are disrespected, hurt, ignored, manipulated, isolated, or stolen from, they are experiencing abuse and neglect.  When this happens to an older person by someone they know and trust, it is Elder Abuse

Usually, it is caused by people they trust like:
• family or whānau
• friends or neighbours
• people offering support or services

Older people can experience abuse and neglect in their own homes or wherever they are staying. They can be abused whether they live by themselves or with other people.
Elder abuse can be experienced in different ways . It is now understood that elder abuse occurs regardless of gender, religion, income level, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or cultural groupings a person identifies with. 

Elder abuse and neglect:
•    Violates human rights.
•    Causes physical injuries and illnesses.
•    Damages mental wellbeing.
•    Reduces financial security.
•    Lowers self-confidence and self-esteem.
•    Harms social relationships.

Ideas about ‘elder abuse’ began being talked about in the 1980’s. An international definition was first agreed in 2002.

The World Health Organisation  (WHO) Toronto Declaration on the Global Prevention of Elder Abuse is: “Elder abuse is 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.”

In many countries, services have developed to support older people experiencing abuse over the last thirty years. In New Zealand these were initiated by community agencies like Age Concerns . We share our knowledge  gained from decades of working with older people who have been abused and neglected. More research across the globe is also adding to all we know about elder abuse and neglect.

Why does elder abuse occur?
There are many reasons why elder abuse occurs, and many reasons why it is usually kept hidden.  It often stems from attitudes that are ageist, so that older people are written off as less important.  Negative opinions or jokes about the older generation, discourages people from talking about being ‘abused’ or ‘neglected’. 

Our aim at Age Concern is for all older people to be safe and live without fear of being hurt.  We work together with families and communities to respect the choices that older people and kaumātua make.

Please contact your nearest Age Concern
Have you got questions about what might be happening to you?  Or to your Mum, your Dad, your aunty, your Nanny, an older neighbour or friend?  You might have a hunch that something is not OK?  You may wonder if it is wrong to be treated that way, or to be pressured by others? 

Elder Abuse often goes unreported due to the shame and stigma.  The best thing to do is to seek support and ask for advice.

Even if you are not sure that what you are seeing is elder abuse, there is no harm in asking us questions.  We would rather answer your questions before the harm gets worse. 

We are happy to talk with you by phone, or meet with you at a time and place that suits you.  We will listen to your concerns and talk with you about what you have noticed.  Usually, we can plan what steps could be helpful for you.  This might include seeking advice or involving others who can be supportive.