This year on June 15, in recognition of World Elder Abuse Day, I’m encouraging people to take some time to think about how much they value the older people in their lives and how they can help keep them safe.
In Aotearoa (and globally) estimates suggest as many as 10 percent of people over 65 experience abuse. This doesn’t include those under 65 and many cases are not reported. Unfortunately, many sufferers are not identified, or able to access protection, for a variety of reasons, including fear, shame, loyalty and social isolation.
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, held on June 15 every year, helps build awareness of the issue and encourages people to talk about it publically. The day was created in 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and then officially recognised by the United Nations in 2011.
According to the World Health Organisation definition, older adult abuse includes intentional and unintentional mistreatment carried out in a setting in which the older person would normally expect trust. It can refer to single acts or chronic events and may include physical, psychological, financial and sexual abuse as well as neglect.
The impacts of older adult abuse are immense. It is associated with depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse, chronic pain, cognitive decline, morbidity and mortality. Many of these impacts could be prevented by early recognition and intervention.
We all have a part to play in raising awareness of this issue in our communities and helping look out for and protect our precious older adults. Ageism has been linked to older adult abuse, so combatting discrimination based on negative attitudes and stereotypes around ageing is one way we can all start making a difference.
I invite others to join me today and pause to consider how valuable older people are in our communities and what we can do to protect them now and in the future.
For more information about EPAs or if you suspect an older person is being abused or want to report abuse, you can contact Age Concern who provide a free and confidential service. 0800 65 2 105. Or you can contact the 24/7 helpline on 0800 EA NOT OK (0800 32 668 65)
Ahead of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, the Office for Seniors has published two short publications on elder abuse available for download.
United Nations World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2023: Closing the Circle
 Waldegrave, C. (2015). Measuring elder abuse in New Zealand: Findings from the New Zealand Longitudinal Study of Ageing (NZLSA). Family Centre Social Policy Research Unit. From https://msd.govt.nz/documents/about-msd-and-our-work/work-programmes/initiatives/family-and-sexual-violence/2020-07-elder-abuse-in-aotearoa-the-proposed-future-strategy-for-elder-abuse-response-services.pdf