We should all be concerned tomorrow

  • By Graeme Westaway
  • 14 June 2024

Elder abuse is a growing concern in Australia, with significant increases in reported cases highlighting the urgent need for comprehensive support and intervention strategies. In Victoria, the number of affected family members over the age of 65 has risen by 35% over the past four years, according to the Victorian Crime Statistics database. This increase starkly contrasts with the general population report increase of just 11% over the same period, underscoring the disproportionate rise in the abuse of older people. (This data is based on L17 police reports of family incidents.)

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD), observed on June 15th, plays a critical role in addressing this issue by raising public awareness and promoting actions to combat elder abuse. Established by the United Nations, WEAAD serves as a global platform to highlight the importance of safeguarding the rights and dignity of older adults.

This week there have been various awareness initiatives taking place, including public campaigns, educational programs, and community engagement activities. These efforts aim to educate the public on recognising the signs of elder abuse and the steps to take if abuse is suspected. Educational workshops and seminars provide valuable information to caregivers and healthcare professionals, empowering them to protect and support older adults effectively. At the recent ‘Your Life, Your Choice’ workshop for older people hosted at Kingston City Hall, the demand for invitations was over 250 respondents with a substantial waiting list of one hundred behind it.

The impact of these awareness efforts is evident in the increased reporting of elder abuse cases. However, the rising demand for support services has also led to challenges. Better Place Australia’s specialist family violence elder abuse response service, for instance, now has waiting lists of 8 to 10 weeks, highlighting the strain on available resources. This delay in accessing support underscores the need for increased funding and expansion of services to meet the growing demand.

The CEO of Better Place Australia, Serge Sardo says “The significant rise in elder abuse cases in Victoria, combined with the extended waiting times for support services, emphasises the urgent need for continued advocacy and improved policies. Strengthening legal frameworks, enhancing access to support services, and ongoing public education are crucial in addressing the issue effectively.” The Chair of the South Eastern Melbourne Elder Abuse Prevention Network, Graeme Westaway remarks “World Elder Abuse Awareness Day serves as a reminder that as adults we all have the right to make our own choices on how we spend our money, where we live and who we see.  We want our choices to be respected and to live in a safe and comfortable environment. Through continued efforts and increased awareness, society can work towards creating a safer and more respectful environment for all.”

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