Climate change and the Amazon
September 6, 2019
Are there 3 persons in a marriage?
September 6, 2019

The scourge of elderly abuse

By Kaelanne Jordan
Twitter: @kaelanne1

In light of the recent crimes perpetuated against the elderly community, one mental health clinician believes that something is “definitely wrong” in our world where we no longer recognise human rights and dignity, especially those of the ageing population.

“They took care of us and so the circle of life should be done in return. There is such value in our ageing parents and grandparents…they connect us to our past and origins. They are witnesses to and of our history. They are narrators and storytellers of the lives once lived. They really are the cornerstone of who we are today…and sometimes we forget that,” said Crystal Johnson of the Archdiocesan Family Life Commission (AFLC) during a ‘Topic Thursdays’ episode on Facebook live, Thursday, August 29.

Topic Thursdays, 15–20 minutes of live engagement which commenced June 27, was initially aimed at engaging the online community during the July/August vacation in a “real way”, addressing issues of everyday life.

Previous sessions explored inter alia puberty, the father’s role in a daughter’s life, pornography, faith and hope in marriages in financial distress, and miscarriages. However, due to its “overwhelming response”, the sessions have continued.

Johnson spoke on elderly victimisation and ways in which persons can prevent abuse of the elderly. In her discourse, she defined elder abuse, according to the United Nations (UN) website, as a single or repeated act or lack of appropriate action occurring within any relationship which causes harm or stress to an older person.

Elderly abuse, just like any other type of abuse can take various forms–physical, psychological, emotional, sexual and financial. It can also be a result of intentional or unintentional neglect.

Johnson opined that elderly victimisation abuses and “atrocities” are often met with “little recognition” or responses which are usually hidden from public view, dealt with privately and in most cases unreported.

“And I believe this issue is greatly faced across the world. Evidence indicates that elderly abuse is a societal problem. Any kind of abuse is a societal problem,” Johnson added.

Evidence according to the UN global statistics highlights that the number of cases in elderly abuse is projected to increase as many countries have rapidly ageing population. It is predicted that by 2050, the global population of people aged 60 and over will more than double from 900 million in 2015 to about 2 billion.

If the proportion of elder abuse victims remains constant, the number of victims will increase rapidly due to population ageing growing to 320 million victims by 2050. “And one victim is enough in any type of abuse,” she asserted.

Johnson quoted a June 25 Newsday report ‘Division of Ageing reports rise in elder abuse’ which mentioned a high occurrence of report of elder abuse of persons over 67 years.

According to that report, 67 persons experienced domestic violence; 29 were murdered; 324 were victims of burglaries and break-ins; and 320 were cases of robberies. It also stated that on average there are 12 reported cases of abuse per month.

“And I think that’s an alarming rate,” she said, adding that failure of family and friends to frequently visit their elderly loved ones not only causes emotional suffering but permits elder abuse/victimisation to continue.

Tune into to Topic Thursdays, every Thursday at 2 p.m. on AFLC’s Facebook page, @familylifecommission. Topics can be suggested via the Comments section.

Johnson stressed the importance of knowing the signs of elder abuse:

  • Withdrawal and a lack of participation from usual activities
  • Unexplained wounds, bruises and odd injuries
  • Sudden deterioration in health
  • Deliberately isolating the elderly from family and friends

If you know someone who is being abused, please contact 800 – OPIC (Older Person Information Centre) hotline.