15 June 2017
15 June is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, voicing opposition to the abuse and suffering inflicted to some of our older generations.
GADAA members Age International, HelpAge International, AARP, the Global Ageing Network, International Longevity Centre (ILC), NGO Committee on Ageing (Geneva), NGO Committee on Ageing (NY), International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA) and International Federation on Ageing (IFA) all work to support the rights of older people.
Here are some highlights from member organisations that coordinated activity to mark World Elder Abuse Awareness Day:
- In London, HelpAge International launched a new report, ‘Entitled to the same rights‘ which focuses on older women’s right to non-discrimination and equality, and their right to freedom from violence, abuse and neglect. Read the report.
- In Geneva, the NGO Committee on Ageing (Geneva) coordinated a side event of the Human Rights Council 35th session ‘Violence against older persons, a human rights issue’. The event was sponsored by the Group of Friends of the Human Rights of Older Persons and by the Permanent Missions of Argentina, Austria, Brazil, El Salvador, Israel, Montenegro, Namibia, Portugal, Slovenia and Uruguay. Watch the event.
- In New York, INPEA, the NGO Committee on Ageing (NY), International Federation on Ageing and AARP spoke at a UN event ‘Understand & End Financial Exploitation of Older People: A Human Rights Issue’. The event was organised by the Group of Friends of Older Persons, in collaboration with the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, the NGO Committee on Ageing in New York, the Focal Point on Ageing of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Watch the event.
– Violence against women can occur at any age yet older women’s experiences are frequently discounted. For instance, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) target to ‘eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls’ only collected data on women up to the age of 49 until February 2016 (Age International, 2016).
– Older women affected by conditions such as dementia are exposed to what we could term a ‘triple jeopardy’ (Graham et al, 2003), discriminated against as a result of their age, sex and condition.
– Individuals can experience degrading treatment and even violence due to the health condition of dementia (Mushi et al, 2014; SKJ Travel). Moreover, in communities that classify individuals as witches due to dementia-related symptoms, women are at risk of being ‘mistreated, hit, or even burned’ or forcibly removed to exorcism camps (WHO, 2012). Women living with dementia in these communities are at risk of having their assets seized or facing assault or even death (Ferreira, 2004; Kohnert, 2003; Gorman, 2000).
– Research from the US indicates that people living with dementia are at greater risk of elder abuse than those not. Impairments in memory, communication and judgment can make people living with dementia particularly vulnerable to abuse (National Centre on Elder Abuse, 2016).
Dementia is often dismissed as a natural process of ageing leading to discrimination, stigma and a lack of support. Age is indeed a risk factor for dementia, but we must do more to spread that word that dementia is not a normal part of ageing, it is a medical condition that can and will be tackled through collective global action. Join the GADAA network to help us stand up for the rights of people living with dementia worldwide.
Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, Independent Expert on the human rights of older persons calls for action on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
Many older persons are at risk of being abused by their own relatives, a United Nations human rights expert has warned. Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, Independent Expert on the human rights of older persons, is urging greater vigilance and more reporting of suspected cases. Speaking ahead of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on 15 June, Ms. Kornfeld-Matte says most abuse goes undetected despite clear warning signs. Her full statement is as follows:
“Elder abuse remains a taboo in many societies. It often happens inconspicuously and in many cases goes unnoticed, but we know that it occurs frequently and in all types of settings. No community or country in the world is immune.
I condemn elder abuse wherever and whenever it happens, but I am particularly appalled that older persons are often at risk from members of their own family.
We must not close our eyes to the fate of older persons, even though it is difficult to accept that our families are not always a safe haven. On this World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, I urge everyone who suspects any form of elder abuse, including financial abuse, to report their concerns.
Elder abuse takes many different forms. Some people suffer discrimination in the public sphere, linguistic discrimination, isolation, neglect and financial exploitation. Others face psychological violence, the withholding of basic needs, physical violence or sexual abuse.
Most cases go undetected despite clear warning signs – for example unexplained bruises, lack of medical care, malnutrition or dehydration, unexplained changes of alertness, or sudden changes in finances and accounts.
We cannot assume the victims will report what is happening to them. Despite facing abuse such as being physically restrained, left in soiled clothes, over-medicated or emotionally neglected, they may not speak up for fear of reprisals – or to protect family members from criminal prosecution.
In some cases, the victims may not be fully aware that what is happening to them constitutes abuse, or they may lack the means to report it, for example if they have no access to a phone or a trusted adult. They may even be physically or mentally incapable of communicating.
This all adds to the weight of our collective responsibility to act, and to speak up for older persons when they are unable or unwilling to speak for themselves. All of us can and must be prepared to be advocates for older people, if this abuse is ever to be halted.
We also need to be aware that collective prejudice against older persons and public awareness influences the way in which abuse and violence is perceived, recognized and reported. It is therefore essential to continue to raise awareness to help prevent some abuse cases and to ensure that those that take place are immediately reported.
It is to be regretted that there is no available data on the scale of the problem, as so many cases are currently not reported. And even if they are, crime statistics are not broken down into different age groups. We also need to be aware that intervention strategies which may be suitable for addressing the issue of domestic abuse are not suitable for managing violent relationships involving older persons.
Elder abuse is a specific, distinct and deeply disturbing form of abuse. We must all play our part in tackling it and restoring full human rights and human dignity to all those affected, or who face being at risk in the future.”