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World Elder Abuse Awareness Day marks the hidden plight of older Australians

Tomorrow, on June 15, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) will recognise the ongoing difficulties faced by neglected and abused elderly Australians at the hands of carers, family members or friends.

​World Elder Abuse Awareness Day highlights the worst indicators of ageism and inequality experienced by our elderly. [Source: Shutterstock]
​World Elder Abuse Awareness Day highlights the worst indicators of ageism and inequality experienced by our elderly. [Source: Shutterstock]

WEAAD highlights the worst indicators of ageism and inequality experienced by our elderly.

Elder abuse is any act that causes harm to an older person and is carried out by someone the person knows and trusts.

Abuse can be characterised as physical, social, financial, psychological or sexual and includes mistreatment and neglect.

Elder abuse is vastly under reported, however, the Australian Institute of Family Studies believes up to 14 percent of older Australians are affected.

Jenny Blakey, Seniors Rights Victoria (SRV) Manager, says the rates of mental health are very noticeable in elderly people that have experienced elder abuse.

“Elder abuse and mental health are interlinked, with elder abuse having devastating psychological effects on an older person, including depression and anxiety. This, in turn, can lead to social isolation, a significant risk factor for further abuse,” says Ms Blakey.

“Depression and anxiety are not normal parts of ageing and anyone experiencing them is encouraged to seek help and support.

“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.”

A new report commissioned by the Australia Government has found that elder abuse is under-reported since most abuse victims are hesitant to report an abusive family member or their primary carer.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare released their second paper, Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence in Australia: Continuing the national story, following last years report.

Lack of reporting by elderly people of their abusers is a well-known fact of elder abuse.

Another issue with reporting abusers is that people with cognitive disorders may be unable to recognise they are being abused or not sure how to report it.

The World Health Organisation estimates that one in six people aged 60 and over have experienced elder abuse in the last year.

Some evidence has been found, linking elder abuse to the health status of an individual, such as a decline in physical and mental health over a three year period.

Other studies have shown that older age and abuse is predictive of an early death and disability.

There is a number of WEAAD events held around the country to raise awareness about elder abuse, including a WEAAD Conference in Adelaide on Monday 17 June.

To find more information about WEAAD or details for events in Australia, head to the Elder Abuse Awareness Day website.

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