Report elder abuse
Elder Abuse and Neglect 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.
Definition adopted from WHO Toronto Declaration on the Global Prevention of Elder Abuse, 2002Age Concern provides free and confidential Elder Abuse and Neglect Prevention Services for older people and their carers, providing support and advocacy so that older people can be happy, healthy and safe. Click here for contact details. The Ministry of Health’s provides a six-step model for health care providers to use when identifying and responding to elder abuse. Click here for the Guidelines.
The reality of elder abuse in New Zealand
- In June 2015 the Office for Senior Citizens published “Towards gaining a greater understanding of Elder Abuse and Neglect in New Zealand”.
- The key findings included:
- Around one in ten older people reported some form of abuse (most closely linked to vulnerability and coercion).
- Women experienced a greater sense of vulnerability, dependence and dejection, while men experienced higher levels of coercion.
- Older people who were divorced, separated or widowed people felt considerably more sad and lonely, or were uncomfortable with someone in their family.
- Elder abuse leads to significant reduction in physical and mental health and wellbeing, as well as increases in loneliness and depression.
- Projections indicate that the number of older people experiencing elder abuse and neglect will increase significantly in the next 20 years, alongside a doubling of the 65 and over population.
- There is a growing sense of social isolation amongst the elderly in New Zealand: the Auckland results of the New Zealand Longitudinal Study of Ageing (2012) show that over half of those questioned were lonely and nine percent described themselves as “severely” or “very severely” lonely.
- Many older people in New Zealand also suffer from abuse.
- Age Concern reports that it receives more than 2,000 confirmed referrals each year of older people facing abuse or neglect.
- If, as estimated, only 16 percent of the actual number of abuse incidents reach service agencies,this means that the likely number of elderly people subject to abuse is greater than 12,000.
- In a time when older people are experiencing greater levels of social isolation and loneliness than ever before, many people will ‘choose’ euthanasia/assisted suicide not because it is what they really want but as a way of resolving their existential suffering; a suffering that will be in large part societally generated and imposed.
- In overseas jurisdictions such as Belgium and the Netherlands, existential factors are increasingly being recognised as valid reasons for a premature assisted death. Dutch pro-euthanasia doctor Rob Jonquiere has noted that many elderly people will choose euthanasia or assisted suicide for reasons of social isolation:
The elderly have feelings of detachment … The elderly have feelings of isolation and loss of meaning. The elderly are tired of life … Their days are experienced as useless repetitions. The elderly have become largely dependent on the help of others, they have no control over their personal situation and the direction of their lives. Loss of personal dignity appears in many instances to be the deciding factor for the conclusion that their lives are complete.
- Our society has become increasingly functionalist, shaping the way we regard people who are not productive, independent and healthy. This can make us insensitive and unresponsive to the needs of elderly and disabled to feel included and valued – something evident above all in the growing isolation and growing sense of being a burden to the rest of society.
- This context puts our elders and others struggling with disabilities at risk of coercion as a result of their own internalised feelings of loss of worth.
See C. Waldegrave, P. King, and E. Rowe, “Aucklanders 50 and over: A health, social, economic and demographic summary analysis of the life experiences of older Aucklanders,” (Auckland: Auckland Council, 2012) pp. 66-67.
National Center on Elder Abuse, 1998, p. 12, in “Under the Radar: New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study,” May 2011, http://www.ocfs.state.ny.us/main/reports/Under%20the%20Radar%2005%2012%2011%20final%20report.pdf
See Jonquiere, R. Fourth Annual Lecture to the Society for Old Age Rational Suicide, London, September 20, 2013 http://www.soars.org.uk/index.php/pages.