Author Archives: SeniorsRightsVictoria

Widely experienced lawyer for new role at SRV

SRV’s Principal Lawyer Rebecca Edwards has been appointed to the new role of Manager and Principal Lawyer at Seniors Rights Victoria.

‘I want to continue to protect the rights of older people experiencing abuse, and SRV’s outstanding work with our partners and stakeholders,’ says Rebecca.

Having worked at SRV since 2017, Rebecca is widely experienced in legal, social justice and government matters. Prior to this she spent 10 years as a lecturer and tutor in law and social justice at La Trobe University. read more

Close up of an older woman's hands using a mobile phone.

Understanding the impact of COVID on older Victorians

Victoria had Australia’s longest COVID-19 lockdown last year and maintaining contact with older people was a priority for COTA Victoria and Seniors Rights Victoria during this time.

To better understand how the pandemic and lockdown may have affected elder abuse, Seniors Rights Victoria compared the calls its helpline received in 2020, with those received the year before.

In 2020, there were significant increases in calls about psychological abuse (748, up 32%); physical abuse (184, up 40%); and social abuse (170, up 21%). This correlates with data collected by the Crime Statistics Agency which showed an increase in elder abuse incidents attended by Victoria Police and Ambulance Victoria.

There were fewer calls about financial abuse (703, down 32%) and guardianship and administration matters (263, down 49%) than the previous year. It was notable that while there were fewer calls during the lockdown periods, there were sharp increases when restrictions were lifted. SRV staff suspect this was because people were unable to seek help during the lockdowns if they lived with the perpetrator, and also that people were unwilling to address financial abuse concerns when the perpetrator (often a family member) may have been experiencing economic hardship from the pandemic.

The issues Seniors Rights Victoria assists with are usually related to long-term elder abuse and family conflict. It is expected that the impact of the pandemic on this type of elder abuse may not be seen for some time.

Prior to 2020, it was reported by older people that 36% of perpetrators of elder abuse had a drug, alcohol or gambling issue; 39% mental issues; and 27% financial difficulties. Research also showed 36% of people experiencing elder abuse lived with the perpetrator.

If there is an increase in any of the above factors due to the pandemic (job loss, increased mental health issues, increased alcohol consumption, financial stress, housing stress) there may be an associated increase in elder abuse.

Some of the specific issues raised by callers to Seniors Rights Victoria throughout the pandemic were about potential problems. These included family members who had returned to live with aged parents (some having returned from overseas) because they had no job or income, and would not contribute to household income.

For some callers, the challenges of supporting family members with mental health issues were exacerbated by anxiety about the pandemic and the isolation of lockdowns. There were also calls about adult children returning to older parent homes, using drugs and being abusive.

A survey last year by the Australian Institute of Family Studies revealed the pandemic was encouraging jobless adult children to move back in with parents, increasing concerns about the risk of elder abuse. The Life During COVID-19 survey spoke to more than 7000 people from around Australia. Many of the under 30s surveyed said they had moved back with their parents. Almost a quarter of those aged 50 to 59 the Institute spoke to said their children had moved back in.

COTA Victoria's survey 'Coronavirus - checking in on the older people's experience.

COTA Victoria’s survey of older Victorian’s COVID experiences

Both SRV and COTA Victoria quickly recognised that social isolation and fear about the COVID-19 pandemic would be serious issues for older people. However, it was also acknowledged that more research would need to be done to understand the impact of COVID-19 on older people and elder abuse.

COTA Victoria also conducted an online and telephone survey of older people aged mostly between 65 and 84. The primary aim of the survey was to ensure the voices of older people were included in public discussions about how to plan, manage and recover from natural disasters and community emergencies.

COTA worked with the City of Whittlesea to analyse the results. The feedback from 1,149 participants has assisted the Victorian Government and local councils with recovery work and emergency planning.

Those surveyed said the top five pandemic challenges were:

  • Not being able to go to weekly activities such as social groups, churches and sport (63%)
  • Not being with family (61%)
  • Social isolation (50%)
  • Missing important life events such as weddings, birthdays and funerals (46%)
  • Not being able to get out and be active (39%).

Respondents’ anonymous comments were telling indicators of how older people were feeling during this time. Many revealed they were unsure, wary, wanting of information, or simply waiting for inspiration and a sense of safety.

Participants also said they were concerned about missing family; their financial future; isolation and boredom; catching the virus; concern for others not following rules; health in general and staying safe.

As people considered the recovery phase of the pandemic, the overall responses were positive and demonstrated their resilience.

Many shared suggestions about managing life in a pandemic including the need to stay connected (41%); not panic (18%); be active and continue to exercise (14%) and continue regular medical checks (12%).

This survey demonstrated that even if an older person is experiencing many challenges, their attitude and advice is relevant to the experience and recovery of the broader community.

A granny flat at dusk.

Downsizing decisions need care

Lower interest rates and increased demand are pushing up the cost of housing in Victoria. In addition, the financial pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic have meant that some families are suffering financial hardship and are considering ways in which to consolidate their financial positions 

At times like these, older people might think about downsizing or living with their 

family.  read more

An older woman stands at a window.

Case Study 1: Investing in a self-contained unit

Jan 

After the death of her husband five years ago, Jan felt isolated and lonely living alone at some distance from her family. Janher daughter Marie and her son-in-law Paul discussed Jan moving closer to them and being available for her grandchildren after schoolgiven that Marie and Paul struggled to get home from work until later in the evening. Jan also had some health issues and she wanted to be living somewhere she could get support if required. 

Jan sold her home read more

Case Study 2: Investing in family property

Diane 

Diane sold her home. She then contributed $250,000 towards the purchase of a large property shared with her daughter Nicole and son-in-law DavidDiane’s contribution was one quarter of the purchase price. 

Diane had a wing of the house for herself which included a bedroom, lounge and bathroom, but she shared the kitchen with the rest of the family. Diane’s financial interest was not listed on the property title

 because Nicole had said that she would not be able to get a mortgage on the property if Diane was on title.  read more

Legal documents titles Financial Elder Abuse.

Avoiding elder financial abuse

The Law Council of Australia has released a Best Practice Guide for Legal Practitioners in relation to Elder Financial Abuse 

The Guide assists legal practitioners in identifying and addressing potential elder financial abuse issues when preparing and executing wills and other advance planning documents. 

Law Council President Ms Pauline Wright, says 

it has never been more important for Australia and the legal profession to do more to ensure that the human rights of older persons are strongly protected. read more

An orange 7 against a purple background covered in cartoon older people. Title of the publication: Seven Years of Elder Abuse Data in Victoria.

Seven Years of Elder Abuse Data in Victoria

Seniors Rights Victoria, in partnership with the National Ageing Research Institute, analysed seven years of advice call data to produce this report about elder abuse in Victoria. Seven Years of Elder Abuse Data in Victoria gives an overview of who experiences abuse, who is responsible for perpetrating abuse, and what some of the contributing factors are. This project was funded by the State Trustees Australia Foundation. Highlights of the report include:

  • Over the seven years, the service has continued to grow, with a steep increase in the number of advice calls following the tabling of the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence in early 2016.
  • The advice call clients were 72% women and 28% men.
  • Most clients (78%) lived in the Melbourne Greater Metropolitan area and were aged 70 or over (72%).
  • Almost two thirds of clients disclosed that they had experienced psychological abuse (63%) or financial abuse (62%), with many clients experiencing more than one type of abuse. Approximately 16% of clients experienced physical abuse and 11% social abuse (11%). Relatively few calls were received for neglect (1.2%) and sexual abuse (0.8%).
  • Almost all abuse (91%) experienced by advice call clients was perpetrated by a family member, most commonly sons (39%) or daughters (28%).
  • The majority of perpetrators were men (54%), however, the proportion of female perpetrators varied by ten per cent (41 to 51%) during the seven-years, reaching 51% in one 12-month period.
  • Drug, alcohol or gambling issues afflicted a rising number of perpetrators, averaging 35% over the seven-year period.
  • Mental health issues were experienced by an increasing number of perpetrators, rising to 39% in the most recent period.

In August 2020 an online panel discussion was held to launch the report. Hosted by Commissioner for Senior Victorians Gerard Mansour, the panellists discussed elder abuse occurring within the family and some of the contributing factors affecting perpetrators. read more