As part of the global awareness day, a new national alliance - Elder Abuse Action Australia (EAAA) - has been announced by the Australian Government, with the national World Elder Abuse Awareness Day Conference also being held in Adelaide.
Age Discrimination Commissioner Dr Kay Patterson, from the Australian Human Rights Commission, is speaking at the conference, highlighting the importance of tackling elder abuse once and for all, through events, raised awareness, improved education and new initiatives.
“This is an important day because its an international day that actively focuses the attention of the world on this issue,” she explains.
“We aren’t sure but it’s estimated that around 2-10 percent of older people suffer some form of abuse - majority of which is believed to be financial - but it also comes in many other forms.
“It’s vital that we educate people about their rights and responsibilities … [and] make people self-aware of the signs if someone is afraid.
“A lot of education needs to go on.”
Chief Executive Officer of the Aged Rights Advocacy Service and conference organiser Carolanne Barkla says the issue needs a “unified response”.
“Elder abuse is a silent epidemic that demands a collaborative response,” she says.
“This conference brings together leading agencies and individuals including the Human Rights Commission, police, prominent academics, legal professionals, disability sector experts, mediators, people from culturally diverse backgrounds, and those who specialise in the protection of vulnerable Australians.
“Elder abuse is a major public health and social problem with a staggering 1 in 20 older people experience some form of elder abuse.
“The abuse is widespread and often catastrophic, and so it’s vital we work together to identify the strategies that are most effective.”
Attorney-General Christian Porter has highlighted elder abuse as a priority by launching the EAAA which he says will focus on supporting older Australians and protecting them from elder abuse.
“The abuse of older Australians is tragic and the Turnbull Government is committed to working with state and territory Governments, and our community partners, to develop solutions to address this issue,” Minister Porter says.
“EAAA has been established to work in partnership with Government to promote the safety, dignity, equality, health and independence of older Australians through education, capacity building, data gathering and research.
“This new alliance will play a key role in the development of a National Plan to combat elder abuse, which I announced in February.”
Aged care peak body Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) is part of the EAAA Working Group with CEO Pat Sparrow announcing the organisation is proud to be involved and looks forward to working on developing the National Plan.
“The best antidote to elder abuse is a society that recognises and respects the inherent worth and dignity of all older people,” Ms Sparrow says.
“Elder abuse is a scourge on our society that has devastating consequences for older people [and] we know from research that the problem can take many forms - physical, financial, psychological, and others - but we also know the difficulty of detecting abuse, and together with prevention, the issue represents a significant public policy change.
“The work program of the EAAA will contribute significant resources to tackling the problem of abuse at its root cause and developing solutions to address abuse in all its forms.
“The work of EAAA, combined with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day… brings the issue to prominence and demonstrates a commitment to eliminating elder abuse in all forms through education and prevention.”
Ms Sparrow adds that she believes the community also has a role to play in getting behind the issue and raising awareness and understanding to help “eliminate elder abuse once and for all”.