Elder abuse update

Elder abuse is in the spotlight, and NARI has played a major role in getting it there.

NARI’s analysis of Australian government policy on elder abuse showed that whilst there are positive steps being taken to protect and empower older Australians by most states and territories, prevention and response to elder abuse at a national level is missing.

As our Executive Director Associate Professor Briony Dow says: “Policies and strategies vary significantly between states and territories inhibiting meaningful dialogue and creating barriers to access support for all older Australians affected. There is clearly a need for a national strategy on prevention of elder abuse.”

NARI’s analysis of data collected by Senior’s Rights Victoria over a two-year period showed that amongst their community-dwelling clients, 92% of abuse was occurring within families and 67% was perpetrated by adult children against their parents. 

While these findings together with the Royal Commission into Family Violence have led to questioning over whether responses to elder abuse should sit within the family violence response service system, NARI is not convinced.

As Dr Dow says: “Is elder abuse the same as family violence? There is certainly a lot of overlap but I would argue that family violence is one sub-set of elder abuse. There are similarities in the social causes; just as abuse of women in families reflects a lack of respect for women in the community more generally, elder abuse is a reflection of ageism.”

She is quick to point out that elder abuse also occurs within institutional settings. The 2014-15 Report on the Operations of the Aged Care Act shows a concerning increase in reporting of abuse in residential care facilities, which clearly does not fit within the family violence framework.

“There is a need for cross-sectional engagement, at the very least between family violence, elder abuse and the aged care sector, to prevent and/or better manage abuse when it cannot be prevented,” says Dr Dow.