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Researchers working on new framework to tackle elder abuse

The National Ageing Research Institute is developing an action plan to address elder abuse in Victoria that once validated could be adapted by other states.

The project aims to provide a framework for those trying to tackle elder abuse, such as service providers, researchers, governments and philanthropists, to enable the most appropriate targeting of services, funding and research.

As part of the project, NARI will undertake a review of the literature and consult with stakeholders to identify what strategies are working, any service and knowledge gaps and ways to fill them.

NARI director Briony Dow said it was a Victorian action plan to keep the scope manageable, as elder abuse was such a big area.

“Once we have that framework and have validated it… it should be relatively straightforward for other states to take that and look at the gaps in their state, their priority areas and develop an action plan,” Dr Dow told Australian Ageing Agenda.

More than 43,000 people aged over 65 in Victoria experienced some type of elder abuse in any one year, said Vedran Drakulic from Gandel Philanthropy, which provided a major grant to fund the project.

“There is a clear need for action to tackle elder abuse in the coming years, not only to help prevent elder abuse occurring, but also to provide support to people who have been abused, where prevention is not possible,” Mr Drakulic said.

In 2014-15, state and territory elder abuse agencies around Australia assisted 6,784 clients and took 1,258 advocacy cases and 8,985 information calls, according to the National Elder Abuse Annual Report for that year.

Dr Briony Dow

Dr Briony Dow

Identifying and filling the gaps

Dr Dow said that current knowledge on elder abuse in Australia was largely based on calls into the state and territory hotlines and therefore only included those who got to the point of seeking help.

In most cases it was family members perpetrating the abuse and predominantly adult children, while the type of abuse was most likely financial followed by psychological, but often both, she said.

“Often people will give over their assets or their money because they have been threatened or manipulated in some way psychologically by a family member,” Dr Dow said.

“What we don’t know about is neglect,” she said.

Neglect of older people was an important issue that could happen in family, residential care or hospitals settings, and was one of the knowledge gaps the project aimed to identify, she said.

Dr Dow said it was important to take a broad approach because elder abuse was a complex area affected by individual, community and societal factors that spanned many sectors including financial, legal and health.

The project would use surveys and workshops among stakeholder networks to identify existing and potentially helpful services, which might include individual counselling, family mediation, or housing and drug abuse support for perpetrators.

“The idea of the action plan is to map all those things onto more of a conceptual framework then look where the gaps are and where we need to take action in Victoria.”

It is expected the plan will be completed in 12 months.

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One Response to Researchers working on new framework to tackle elder abuse

  1. Ms Bep Nickolson April 14, 2017 at 5:57 pm #

    Elder abuse happens in retirement villages too. It is mainly about not wanting to do maintenance. It is verbal, psychological abuse and bullying and it has almost driven me to suicide. There is nowhere to complain because residents in a retirement village are not protected by any law whatsoever. I have lived in St John’s Retirement Village in Somerville in Victoria for 12 years now and the constant arguing about every maintenance issue small and large has been a problem since the day I moved in. I tried to get in touch with Seniors Rights. They only deal with cases where the family is committing financial abuse, but don’t give advice to residents of retirement villages. I can’t move, because I put my life savings into this place when I moved in and pay monthly maintenance fees. This needs looking into because I am not the only person in a retirement village suffering abuse, it is common. I live in an independent living unit, which means I look after myself.

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