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Elder abuse education needs to start 'young'

To target the underlying causes of elder abuse, education in the community to change attitudes needs to start 'young' and continue in targeted ways, according to Jenny Blakey, Seniors Rights Victoria's manager.

Ms Blakey will today present at the Royal Commission into Family Violence’s public hearings: the ‘Financial abuse and Empowerment’ module.

In its submission to the Royal Commission, Seniors Rights Victoria argues that combatting financial abuse requires systematic future planning by older people, making mediation and family meetings more commonplace and better equipping relevant professionals to intervene.

“We applaud the Victorian government for including elder abuse in the Commission’s terms of reference. Elder abuse needs to be tackled in a way that accommodates the unique profile of its victims and in partnership with the full range of relevant services – including medical, legal, banking, financial planning, aged care, housing and police," Ms Blakey says.

Through its submission, Seniors Rights Victoria is also seeking government funding to reach elder abuse victims in regional Victoria through a network of regional coordinators, and the expansion of the role and functions of the Office of the Public Advocate.

The World Health Organisation estimates that up to 10% of older people worldwide are affected.

The latest Seniors Rights Victoria data, compiled by the National Ageing Research Institute, shows financial abuse and psychological/emotional abuse together are the most common forms of abuse reported by older Victorians (81.82%).

Victims are most likely to be female (72.5%), and the perpetrators are 60% male and 40% female. 92.3% of abuse is perpetrated by people related to the older person or in a de facto relationship. 66.8% of abuse is perpetrated by a child of the older person.

As a 70 year client of Seniors Rights Victoria, who suffered financial loss, psychological abuse and physical assault at the hands of her adult son, says:

“I never would have believed the boy I raised could do this to me. Make no mistake, elder abuse can happen to anyone. It is vitally important the public becomes aware of this kind of intergenerational family violence and what to do about it.”

Common scenarios of financial abuse involve adult children returning home, demanding their inheritance early or exchanging ‘care’ for their parents’ assets.

Older Victorians experiencing elder abuse can get find help calling Seniors Rights Victoria on 1300 368 821 (Monday to Friday, from 10am to 5pm).

Services include a Helpline, specialist legal services, short-term support and advocacy for individuals and community and professional education.

Download Seniors Rights Victoria's submission to the Royal Commission.

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