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World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

In a time when older people are the fastest-growing segment of the population worldwide, the prevalence of elder abuse is also on the rise.

Age Concern receives more than 2000 referrals of elder abuse every year, most commonly for financial, physical and psychological abuse. While many international studies show a close relationship between abuse and mental health, wellbeing and social adaptation in later life, there is a lack of research on the prevalence of elder abuse and its impacts on older people in New Zealand.

A recent study, based on the New Zealand Longitudinal Study of Ageing, on prevalence and associated factors of elder abuse in a community-dwelling population, was published in 2015 by Dr Polly Yeung, Ms Lareen Cooper and Dr Michael Dale of Massey’s School of Social Work. It found that elder abuse was common, with an estimated prevalence of 18 per cent, much higher than estimates from international studies on developed countries (between one and 10 per cent).

Dr Yeung says the study also revealed older people who experienced abuse had a higher level of loneliness and poor economic wellbeing. “They were more likely to experience depression, have poor mental health and be less happy, which significantly affected their life satisfaction and overall quality of life. Older people with poor health status and inability to get around may require higher support from spouse and family members. This can put pressure on the caregiver’s physical, psychological and economic status.”

She says the study points to the need for improved investigations into elder abuse and mistreatment in New Zealand’s ageing population. “Professionals need better training around intervening with perpetrators, planning for safety of older people and effective response strategies and collaborative training between domestic violence professionals and other human services professionals. Future study should also focus on providing support to caregivers to heighten their awareness of the rights of older care recipients.”

Key facts about elder abuse in New Zealand – Age Concern:

• Almost half of abused older people are over the age of 80

• Forty per cent of abused older people live alone

• More than three quarters of alleged abusers are family/whānau

• Almost half of alleged abusers are adult children

• Abusers are as likely to be female as male


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