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Seven year Victorian study results in elder abuse markers

A new study from advocacy group, Seniors Rights Victoria (SRV), and ageing researcher, National Ageing Research Institute (NARI), has found important markers for elder abuse in Victoria.

The study considered the characteristics of Senior Rights Victoria clients and their elder abuse perpetrators, including the type of abuse, risk factors, referrals and outcomes. [Source: iStock]
The study considered the characteristics of Senior Rights Victoria clients and their elder abuse perpetrators, including the type of abuse, risk factors, referrals and outcomes. [Source: iStock]

According to the study, more than 90 percent of elder abuse perpetrators in Victoria are family members, and either substance abuse, gambling problems or mental health issues are a contributing factor to elder abuse.

The report, Seven Years of Elder Abuse Data in Victoria, will be released tomorrow, Wednesday, 26 August, which has analysed 2,385 cases of elder abuse from June 2012 to July 2019 that were reported to SRV.

Senior Rights Victoria's Principal Lawyer, Rebecca Edwards, says SRV receives thousands of calls from older people who are experiencing elder abuse.

"In over 90 percent of elder abuse cases the perpetrator was a family member. For two out of three callers, this family member was their adult son (39 percent) or daughter (28 percent). And increasingly, this adult child is experiencing their own difficulties, which can make the abuse harder to address," explains Ms Edwards.

"In many instances, older people contact SRV because they want the abuse to stop. But they also want help for their family member who is responsible for the abuse, in the form of substance abuse and gambling services, mental health support and alternative housing."

The study considered the characteristics of SRV clients and their elder abuse perpetrators, as well as the type of abuse, risk factors, what referrals took place and outcomes.

Thirty-five percent of elder abuse perpetrators had drug and alcohol or gambling issues while 39 percent were experiencing mental health issues.

Director at NARI, Professor Briony Dow, says the report will go a long way towards helping find preventative measures and understanding the issues behind elder abuse. It's also incredibly helpful when elder abuse data is lacking.

"Data like these can be used to understand the main types of abuse experienced, risk factors for abuse and the perpetrator characteristics. This can inform government policy and programs that aim to prevent and respond to elder abuse," says Professor Dow.

Other findings from the report include, 72 percent of callers to SRV were older women, nearly two thirds of callers experienced psychological abuse (63 percent) or financial abuse (62 percent), and most clients were experiencing multiple types of abuse at once.

Around 16 percent of clients experienced physical abuse, and while both men and women were perpetrators of elder abuse, the data shows that men were more likely to be a perpetrator.

Ms Edwards added that COVID-19 is likely to impact elder abuse cases in Victoria, but this wasn't captured within the study timeframe.

"As people become unemployed they’re returning home, often under a lot of stress. Coupled with increased social isolation, financial pressures and an uncertain future, there is concern they’ll take this out on their parents, who may themselves be isolated from their usual community connections due to COVID-19," says Ms Edwards.

To view the whole study, head to the Seniors Rights Victoria website.

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