Curtosey of UN Departement of Economic and Social Affairs
Cairo – 15 June 2017: Elder abuse is a difficult topic that often goes unreported. The elderly will more than double from 542 million in 1995 to about 1.2 billion in 2025, and by 2050 more than 20 percent of the world’s population will be 60 years old or older, according to the United Nations (UN). The growth is expected to be faster in developing countries. Around four to six percent of elderly people have experienced some form of maltreatment at home.
Elder abuse has become a global social issue that deserves the attention of the international community due to its effect on the health and human rights of millions around the world. That is why the UN General Assembly in its resolution number
, designated June 15 as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, WEAAD; a day when the whole world stands against the abuse and suffering inflicted on older generations.
The aim of WEAAD is to raise global awareness about preventative measures of elder abuse, draw attention to signs of elder abuse, respond to the abuse faced by older people, and highlight the issue of self-neglect among the elderly.
Elder abuse can take various forms; physical, psychological, sexual, and financial exploitation, and even emotional abuse. Sometimes, it can be a result of unintentional neglect, but in other instances, it is very much intentional.
The perpetrator is usually a family member, most often an adult child who is the older person’s caregiver. Caregivers are often overwhelmed by the demands of elder care, have inadequate preparation or resources, or do not know what is expected of them. Many caregivers do not intend to abuse the person, and some may not even know that they are abusing them. Sometimes professional caregivers, such as home health care workers or employees of nursing homes and other institutions, abuse older people.
Though it is a problem that exists in both developing and developed countries, it is underreported globally. Such abuse often goes unreported, due to the victim’s feelings of shame and embarrassment or their inability to report it.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that up to 10 percent of older people may be affected in some countries, and though the extent of elder mistreatment is unknown, its social and moral significance is obvious. Most prevalent studies are based on self-reported surveys.
, aim to end poverty and build a more sustainable world by 2030. Ending neglect, abuse and violence against older people, is vital to achieve a more sustainable world and to ensure that no one is left behind.
“All human beings are born with equal and inalienable rights, and have the right to age with dignity, respected by their families and communities, free of neglect, abuse and violence.” said Ban Ki-moon in his message on World Elder Abuse Day, 2014.
“There's nothing magical that happens at the age 60 or 65 that explains differential treatment on basis of age” said Craig Mokhiber, Chief, Development & Economic & Social Issues Branch (DESIB), during the DPI/NGO Briefing on global ageing population and agenda 2030 on June 1.
This year’s theme focuses on financial exploitation and material abuse that is becoming prevalent in the elderly community. According to the UN, five to 10 percent of the elderly globally may experience some kind of financial exploitation. The 2017 theme is Understand and End Financial Abuse of Older People; it underscores the importance of preventing financial exploitation in the context of elder abuse, ensuring that older persons get to enjoy their human rights.
An elderly woman in Suthern Lebanon - Curtosey of UN - John Isaac
The 2017 WEAAD theme will explore effective means of strengthening protection against financial and material exploitation, including improving the understanding of this form of elder abuse and discussing ways of ensuring the participation of older adults themselves in ending victimization. It will further serve to inform the thematic discussions of the upcoming eighth session of the General Assembly’s Open-ended
, which will take place in New York from July 5-7, 2017.
Financial abuse is the exploitation of a person’s possessions or funds. It can include: theft, forgery, misuse of property and power of attorney, as well as denying access to funds. While in less resourced countries, it includes accusations of witchcraft that are used to justify property grabbing, ejection from homes and denial of family inheritance to widows.
To address the vital issue of status and wellbeing of the elderly and to ensure their social inclusion, the UN has formed the Commission for Social Development, (CSocD) and the Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing (OEWGA). These committees ensure that elderly issues are on the agenda and not put aside when it comes to development.
In 1999, the UN announced the year as the International Year of Older Persons (IYOP) and dedicated Oct. 1 every year as the International Day of Older Persons.
Elder abuse has been previously addressed by the UN General Assembly in the first World Assembly on Ageing in 1982. As a result, Vienna International Plan of Action on Ageing was developed, calling for humanitarian and developmental approaches to ageing.
Twenty years later, the Second World Assembly, whose theme was “Building a society for all ages”, was held in 2002 in order to assess the progress made by Member States during the intervening 20 years in implementing Vienna International Plan. It included the Madrid International Plan of Action, which focused on three priority areas: older persons and development, advancing health and well-being into old age, and ensuring enabling and supportive environments.