In our society, partners, families and friends provide an enormous amount of support for older people. Most of the time, this support is focused on the expressed wishes and needs of the older person and I want to record my appreciation for the great amount of love and care provided by partners, families and friends - in many cases on a daily basis.
However the release of the report of the Royal Commission into Family Violence is a timely reminder that there are older people in Victoria who sadly are at risk of, or experiencing, elder abuse.
Elder abuse is defined as any act which causes harm to an older person and is carried out by someone they know and trust, such as family and friends. It is a form of family violence, in that most perpetrators are family members.
Many older people aspire to remain independent in their homes for as long as possible and practicable. Often it is the family, friends and neighbours who actively enhance the quality of life when seniors become frailer - for example, as carers, transport providers, conveyers of information and providers of social support
Yet, due to the ageing of our population it is clear there will be greater numbers of older people who will live longer, and with higher levels of frailty, in their homes
And so, while the majority of family and friends provide exceptional support, others turn this on its head and seniors become victims of their dependence on others, suffering financial, physical, psychological and other forms of abuse
It is clear to me that for many older people, the experience of elder abuse can be a difficult issue to discuss.
I have observed that a significant number of seniors are not aware of resources that are available to assist them. Many older people have limited knowledge about services such as Seniors Rights Victoria, funded by the Victorian Government to provide a telephone helpline 1300 368 821 and a free and confidential legal advice, advocacy and referral service for older Victorians at risk of or experiencing elder abuse.
The Seniors Online website has information about elder abuse and Seniors Rights . For older people who do not have access to the internet, hard copy information is available.
The report of the Royal Commission into Family Violence findings and recommendations include addressing the needs of older people affected by elder abuse. The Royal Commission found that older people should be encouraged to seek help and to know where it can be found.
The Victorian Government has responded to the Royal Commission’s report stating it will implement all recommendations. I believe all of us have a responsibility to prevent and respond to suspected elder abuse and the starting point is to seek advice, including from Seniors Rights Victoria helpline on 1300 368 821.
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.