Elder Abuse: an International concern

The indisputable fact that elder abuse is an ever pervading global problem should be not only disappointing but devastating to us all – particularly as we pause to recognise the 4th World Elder Abuse Awareness in 2009. The theme of the conference to be held in Paris on the 5th July is ‘learning and understanding about elder abuse and the importance of the “1991 UN Principles for Older Persons.”

National and international research has demonstrated unequivocally that: there are many forms of elder abuse and neglect is the most common form; that family as well as professionals are often the perpetrators of abuse; those who suffer abuse are unlikely to register a complaint; and the burden of proof remains with the victim.

Over the last decade the body of information and shared knowledge about elder abuse has grown substantially yet shaping effective polices has been somewhat difficult. There is no gold standard for policy development as the dynamics that give rise to elder abuse are complicated – in essence there is no ‘cookie cutter’ answer for why it happens, how to prevent it or how to create the necessary social change and action.

Elder abuse is a violation of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and yet we seem to have failed to give voice to the rights of older people at all levels of the community and of government. Now is the time for us to come together with ‘one voice’ and condemn the unacceptable practice of elder abuse.

The International Federation on Ageing lauds the action of the United States Administration on Ageing in its recent initiative to run a 15-second elder abuse information piece on 700 movie screens in 27 major metropolitan areas throughout the country. In making the announcement the Acting Assistant Director for Aging, Mr Edwin L Walker said that ‘this is the first time that one unified message regarding elder mistreatment will be echoed simultaneously throughout the country. In a brief video that will appear before movie trailers and previews, actor William Mapother of the television show “Lost” asks viewers to “Join Us in the Fight Against Elder Abuse.”

The community announcement which is part of the “Join Us” campaign by the National Center on Elder Abuse is part of the first-ever national effort in the United States to raise awareness of elder abuse.

Each of us is touched by elder abuse because we are members of a community: Each of us has a voice in the fight against this unacceptable practice; and each of us has a responsibility to step forward and stand up for the rights of older people.

When the world comes together to against disease such as polio or smallpox there is clear goal toward eradication – this must be our mantra in 2009 for elder abuse. There is no magic bullet or drug for this complaint, and the solution can only be created by a unified multisectoral approach where all levels of our government join with public and private sectors to say NO to elder abuse!