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Collaboration to tackle domestic violence among seniors

Older women are more likely to experience abuse and violence, experts say

Cooperation among aged care, mental health and domestic violence services is needed given increasing rates of intimate partner violence among seniors, experts say.

Old age psychiatrist Chanaka Wijeratne says that clinicians and frontline services still have “a lot to learn” about domestic violence and older people, and improved communication between the sectors is needed.

“The problem is in general we all work within our own enclaves, as a clinician I work daily with other clinicians, so we don’t really have much opportunity for engagement,” said Dr Wijeratne, an adjunct associate professor at Prince of Wales Hospital’s Aged Care Psychiatry Service.

Regular networking or information sharing events between clinicians, aged care providers and domestic violence services could be beneficial, Dr Wijeratne told Australian Ageing Agenda at a forum on domestic violence and seniors last week.

The majority of domestic violence among older people are “grown old” cases where the abuse has been occurring over a very long time – 39 years on average, he said.

The abuser is typically an older male, often with a personality disorder and alcohol abuse problem, who exhibits controlling behaviour.

Dr Wijeratne said multidisciplinary approaches were needed to treat the perpetrator and help the victim of violence.

“We need to understand the family dynamics, not just the intimate partner relationship. Separate treatment plans and therapists for the perpetrator and the victim are very important,” he said.

Elsewhere at the forum, which was organised by the Prince of Wales Hospital’s Aged Care Psychiatry Service, social policy researcher Jane Mears said that older women were more likely to be victims of all kinds of abuse and violence.

They faced “structural discrimination” in areas such as education and employment, which led to social exclusion, and were more likely to experience interpersonal violence.

Dr Mears, an associate professor at Western Sydney University, said that in 2013 the OECD found older women were one of the most socially disadvantaged groups in Australian society.

“Older women are a marginalised majority,” she said.

Related AAA coverage: Commissioner hopeful of elder abuse changes

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One Response to Collaboration to tackle domestic violence among seniors

  1. Charmaine Weeks July 1, 2017 at 12:17 am #

    This was an excellent forum that shone a light on intimate partner abuse from the perspectives of a range of clinical professionals, academic and police.

    Dr Carolyn Hullick et al has recently published an article in Emergency Management Australasia on indicators of elder abuse. Its in open access at

    Also, Let’s Stop Job Ageism is a petition running on www, It well outlines many of the issues older people face, including strain on intimate partner relations often due to financial stress and loss of confidence/self worth.

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