As part of the response to the Royal Commission into Family Violence, the Victorian Government funded ten Elder Abuse Prevention Networks (EAPNs) across Victoria to explore how to prevent elder abuse before it occurs. This challenging shift in focus from early intervention and response to prevention means identifying and addressing the complex, interwoven factors that enable and drive elder abuse. With funding from the State Trustees Australia Foundation, Seniors Rights Victoria (SRV) recently completed action research looking at best practice models for EAPNs.
Community-level primary prevention
Primary prevention needs to be tackled at every level, encompassing both legal and institutional reform and community activities – the focus of this project. At the community level, SRV’s action research identified some of the crucial ingredients.
Firstly, networks need broad membership if they are to have legitimacy and relevance and be able to reach into communities. EAPNs are led by community health centres, local government, community legal centres, carers networks and primary care projects – all of whom bring different experiences and strengths to the work of preventing elder abuse.
Once established, EAPNs need to build connections with the community and involve different age groups. While older people must be involved in planning and implementation, activities can’t be limited to this age group – primary prevention of elder abuse requires a focus on all societal segments and settings. Intergenerational programs that encourage interaction between older and younger people are valuable.
Finally, professionals working to prevent elder abuse need ongoing support. Professional development opportunities support people to better understand and play a role in primary prevention. Experience to date shows how important communities of practice are to share learning, as well as the value of investment in further research on effective primary prevention.
Victoria’s ten EAPNs will continue their work through to June 2020. The action research report, as well as a brochure and video summarising the work, will soon be available on the Seniors Rights Victoria website.