One of my priorities as Commissioner for Senior Victorians is working on the prevention of elder abuse, and the best way to do that is to get the issue out in the open and educate people about it.
From my experience, and my many meetings with seniors groups, the majority of family and friends have a high level of interest in the needs of seniors as they age.
However, sadly this is not always the case and there are times when this is turned on its head and those people whom the older person trusts becomes the perpetrator of some form of elder abuse.
While elder abuse often has a financial component, it can also involve emotional or psychological abuse, neglect or social isolation, and even physical abuse.
All older people have the right to be treated with respect and dignity, free from exploitation, violence, abuse, age discrimination and ageism.
When I am out and about talking with seniors, I hear first hand just how important it is for older people to maintain social contact and connections as they age. They value their family relationships and their friendships. Not surprisingly, in this context where an elder abuse situation arises older people often seek an outcome where not only does the abuse stop but also the relationships stabilise and any other matters of concern are addressed.
As Commissioner, it is important to me that older people know there are organisations, and places, they can go to in order to receive support or advice. There is Seniors Rights Victoria (SRV), a state government funded telephone support and information and free legal service (1300 368 8210). SRV provides access to resources, information and a number of support services.
Recently, the Family Mediation Centre (FMC), who provide access to mediation and counselling in addressing elder abuse, published some case studies about their work: Case study 1 and Case study 2
Support and conflict resolution services can provide the older person with a non-adversarial means of resolving family disputes and other disagreements that may arise. The FMC Elder Abuse Prevention Project aims to provide support where older people and their families aim to resolve their conflict. This service enables all family members to participate in the process whilst respecting the older person's wishes. The FMC Mediation and Counselling’s Elder Abuse Prevention Project can be accessed by the older person or a referrer such as a friend by calling the hotline on 1800 214 117 or via email at email@example.com.
Alternatively older people may wish to discuss their concerns about elder abuse matters with trusted health professionals like their doctor or health provider, or the Office of the Public Advocate for advice about Powers of Attorney and guardianship (1300 309 337).
There may also be a close family member or friend that they trust to discuss these matters with.
Always remember that if you or anyone you know is experiencing abuse and is under imminent threat or risk, contact Victoria Police on triple-zero and request assistance.
Commissioner for Senior Victorians
Gerard Mansour is a passionate advocate for the rights and needs of older Victorians, with more than 25 years’ experience working in the aged and wider community service sectors. He has contributed significantly to policy development and implementation for myriad services assisting senior Victorians.