Seniors Rights Victoria’s World Elder Abuse Awareness Day forum was one of many worldwide events and activities that empowered, celebrated and informed older people on 15 June.
une 15 marks World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD), officially recognised by the UN in 2011. Individuals and organisations worldwide will be participating in events and activities that empower, celebrate and inform older people, as a way of preventing mistreatment and harm occurring in their communities.
June 15 marks World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD), first officially recognised by the UN in 2011. As individuals and organisations worldwide work to empower, celebrate and inform older people, SRV will be involved in events and activities across Victoria.
The Yarra Ranges Council project was released for this year’s World Elder Abuse Awareness Day in June. The video features poems written and spoken by the reference group members, about the isolation and negativity people feel while experiencing elder abuse.
Earlier this year, students read these poems and discussed the issue in a workshop, before drawing specific parts of the poems. These drawings were then animated by local animator, Al MacInnes.
Yarra Ranges Mayor, Councillor Len Cox, said he hoped the video would help to raise awareness of abuse in the community.
“Elder abuse is a serious issue, and it comes in many forms, from physical, social, financial, psychological or sexual abuse, and it can include mistreatment and neglect,” Cr Cox said.
“This abuse is often carried out by people the victims know and trust, such as family members and friends, and victims rarely speak out.
“Abuse is never okay, and we cannot let this continue to happen to our vulnerable older adults in the community.
Elder abuse is any act which causes harm to an older person and is carried out by someone they know and trust such as a family member or friend. The abuse may be physical, social, financial, psychological or sexual and can include mistreatment and neglect.
WEAAD was officially recognised by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2011, following a request by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA), who first established the commemoration in June 2006.
In many parts of the world elder abuse occurs with little recognition or response. It is a global social issue which affects the health, well-being, independence and human rights of millions of older people around the world, and an issue which deserves the attention of all in the community.
According to WHO, prevalence rates or estimates exist only in selected developed countries – ranging from 1 to 15.7 per cent. Although the extent of elder mistreatment is unknown, its social and moral significance is obvious.
Individuals, communities, municipalities and organisations will come together across the globe to hold events on 15 June that raise awareness of elder abuse, including many events throughout Victoria. To look up whether an event has been registered in your community go to WEAAD events
Senior Rights Victoria encourages organisations to celebrate the positive contributions of older people in our communities.
“Older people are essential in the fabric of our society. It’s time for us to acknowledge their importance and recognise they are entitled to the respect of their communities and especially their families,” Seniors Rights Victoria Manager Jenny Blakey said.
For assistance in seeking publicity for your event, feel free to customise your request for media coverage using our generic media release link on this WEAAD page.
Seniors Rights Victoria is supporting WEAAD by providing re-designed collateral updates your organisation can order via our WEAAD Toolkit This includes bookmarks, posters and magnets with three tag line themes for 2018. There is even a generic poster where you can add your event details. Much of this collateral has been pre-ordered by the supplier to make it quicker for you to access resources, although ribbons have now sold out for 2018.
From this site you can also access a free zip folder with Image Pack Update via the WEAAD resources page where you can download the three generic WEAAD-designed tag themes with various images for your organisation’s use on webpage slides, email banners and social media.
Seniors Rights Victoria is a state-wide service providing information, support, advice and education to help prevent elder abuse and safeguard the rights, dignity and independence of older people. For further information about elder abuse please visit our website www.seniorsrights.org.au or contact our free, confidential Helpline: 1300 368 821.
Wishing you all the best with your WEAAD celebrations!
Community education coordinator Gary Ferguson and a team of volunteer peer educators enjoy the sessions, helping older people and the professionals working with them to understand how they can prevent elder abuse. For a community educator’s perspective read Gina’s story.
The conversation seeds, such as the image pictured, are used as a starting point for their discussions about elder abuse, the link to ageism and the rights of older people. This image illustrates Lloyd Kahn’s skateboarding story which began at the age of 64. The image is him at 79 years still pursuing his passion. When he was 66 years old he fell off and broke his left arm. The treating doctor at the hospital didn’t tell Lloyd he was too old, but attended to his broken arm and advised how he could skateboard safely by wearing protective gear.
“The topics of ageism and elder abuse present different opportunities and challenges for the initiator of the conversation. Elder abuse is mostly preventable and therefore having conversations can equip the community with knowledge and information to address elder abuse and stop it from happening,” Seniors Rights Victoria Manager Jenny Blakey said.
“Conversations about difficult topics, such as elder abuse, can be helpful in exploring the issue and lead to people becoming more empowered to assert their rights. Conversations might lead to people disclosing that they’re being abused or mistreated and will therefore provide an opportunity to inform about the availability of support and assistance”.
Ms Blakey said conversations aren’t intended to provide all the answers about elder abuse, but rather to trigger thinking and discussion about the issue and increase people’s knowledge.
She said conversations and narratives also have a natural place in cross cultural groups of seniors where stories have been used historically.
Talks as part of WEAAD this year include events at Warrnambool, Heidelberg West, Murrumbeena, Collingwood, Burwood, Broadford, Altona and Morwell, often in partnership with other organisations.
Feedback from events hosted earlier this year have been very positive:
“The presentation was brilliant with a great deal of material covered but with humour and anticipation to keep the audience involved. The audience learnt a great deal which has already been put to use. The handouts were handy too”.
“(Appreciated Seniors Rights Victoria) Giving such appropriate and timely awareness of this important service, in a manner that was professional and appropriate to our group. We will certainly recommend that other PROBUS clubs also use the service and speaking personally, I now know where to go if I ever have an issue – which may well be the case as we are considering sometime in the next few years, moving to a village of some sort. I know some of our other members are having similar plans…”
Gina brings the breadth of a career in family, youth and child programs and heath prevention. She understands the most important aspect for someone brave enough to share their elder abuse story is to be believed.
“People are often fearful of talking to other people about their situation, they’ve often lived with it for a long time,” Gina said.
A trained, volunteer presenter at community education sessions throughout Victoria for about a year, Gina has taken to the sessions with great enthusiasm, encouraging older people to build their knowledge, confidence and know they have a place when they can go to get help.
“I know in families, even in my family, that some people feel entitled to more than they should, it challenges us all. That’s why prevention is at the heart of what we do,” Gina said.
The community education sessions often present a case study, perhaps a son living back with his mother after a relationship has ended with debts he cannot manage. The son asks his mum for money, he uses the car and lives in the house without contributing to groceries or paying rent. The mother is trying to help the son get back on his feet but he soon starts using her bank account and when she becomes aware of it and says something he becomes verbally abusive and the relationship continues to deteriorate.
“It’s when trust is broken that it is elder abuse. I talk to people after our sessions and they often feel they are under pressure. They can see their adult child is using them, not respecting them, using their resources and they’re not thinking through the consequences,” Gina said.
“They often have a limited income and feel lucky to have an asset, their house, but there is no notion of fairness from their adult child of seeing their parent as an independent older person who has choices about a situation they haven’t initiated. People are usually quiet silent when the case study is being shared, they just nod their heads as the information clicks.
“They often don’t acknowledge it as elder abuse. Elder abuse is such a blunt term. I’m not surprised it occurs but I’m surprised it’s named publicly, and this sends a clear message that this is present in our communities, in our families and it’s not okay”.
Gina is looking forward to speaking at more community education sessions as it gets closer to World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on 15 June. For information on events go to WEAAD events.
“I will go as often as I can. I enjoy doing this and helping older people understand what they can do to protect themselves and maintain family relationships. I think that is important.”
In most cases elder abuse is an intergenerational form of family violence. In 2016-17, people aged 60 years or over made up just over 5,400 of the family members affected in family violence incidents recorded by Victoria Police (Crime Statistics Agency).
“Just as respectful relationships within families help prevent family violence, respect for older family members is a primary protection against elder abuse, particularly when it comes to a family’s financial arrangements,” Seniors Rights Victoria Manager Jenny Blakey said.
“Older people are essential in the fabric of our society. It’s time for us to acknowledge their importance and recognise they are entitled to the respect of their communities and especially their families. There is no excuse for elder abuse.”
Ms Blakey said the warning signs of elder abuse may include an older person seeming fearful, anxious or isolated. There may be injuries, or an absence of personal care. Disappearance of possessions, unexplained financial transactions, and changes to a will, property title or other legal documents are also of concern. While the mistreatment of an older person may be carried out by one family member, it is often other family members who are best placed to support their parent or grandparent against the abuse, provided they recognise what is happening. Like other forms of family violence, most elder abuse occurs behind closed doors, so it is important for loved ones to watch out for signs, listen and offer help.
Older people can reduce the risk of elder abuse by making sure their financial, medical, legal and other affairs are clearly stated and recorded. Older people must also be empowered to recognise the signs of elder abuse and encouraged to state when they are not comfortable with an arrangement. They can get help to negotiate this through Seniors Rights Victoria.
Older Victorians experiencing elder abuse, or family members concerned about an older person, can get help by calling Seniors Rights Victoria on 1300 368 821 Monday to Friday, from 10 am to 5 pm. The website for more information is www.seniorsrights.org.au.
Seniors Rights Victoria is supporting a public awareness campaign throughout the community by way of its public talks and by inviting all Victorian public libraries to include complimentary purple bookmarks in books borrowed by their customers. Look out for these at a library near year throughout the month of June.
Other event or action ideas are listed on our WEAAD event ideas page. Last minute ideas include:
- Hosting a morning or afternoon tea
- Hosting an information table at your organisation
- Create a public display board
- Plan a tree
- Yarn bomb a pole, bike racks or community seats in your local area – you can even pin information to the poles!
- Submit a letter to the editor of your local media outlet or community newsletter
- Utilising the hashtags #elderabuse #empowerolderpeople to promote key WEAAD messages:
The initial series of discussion papers released aim to build understanding between the family violence sector and older people experiencing elder abuse, acknowledging that despite the progress of reforms into family violence, gaps remain on how best to integrate older people in this space.
Topics covered are: elder abuse as family violence, elder abuse and gender and preventing elder abuse.
Seniors Rights Victoria has now produced some discussion papers to cover some of the legal aspects our service is often asked by family violence service providers, concerned family members, the community and sometimes older people.
The topics are:
- Mandatory reporting – which discusses Seniors Rights Victoria’s position that mandatory reporting diminishes the right of older people to make decisions about their own lives, and would fail to prevent elder abuse or promote the safety of older people experiencing abuse.
- Criminal law and elder abuse – which delves into whether a specific law criminalising elder abuse is necessary.
Seniors Rights Victoria encourages you to read these discussion papers and continue to contribute to the reforms in this space. Feedback is welcome by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org marking the email subject headline Elder Abuse discussion papers.