Elder abuse has been on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic - it is high time to take it seriously!
Brussels, Belgium - 15 June 2020
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2020
Abuse, violence and neglect of older people affect 25% of older people with high care needs every year in Europe, according to the World Health Organization. On today’s World Elder Abuse Awareness Day we remind that elder abuse is still a widely overlooked form of human rights' violation that have been made even more visible during the COVID-19 crisis.
Elder abuse is deeply rooted in our societies’ prejudices, stereotypes and discriminatory practices towards older people. It is implicit in the negative and demeaning views about older persons that are widespread in media. Many practices in the current COVID-19 pandemic can also be labelled as abusive: refusal to hospitalise older people and their de-prioritisation in access to care are some of the most blatant breaches of the human rights of older people.
“The language we have heard and the practices we have observed during this crisis are tragic and explicit reminders that ageism is structural in our societies”, declared Anne-Sophie Parent, Secretary-General of AGE Platform Europe. “Ending elder abuse requires nothing less than ending ageism as a structural factor of discrimination and stereotyping”.
For older people, COVID-19-related challenges have added a layer to the long-lasting phenomenon of elder abuse. As reports on increasing numbers of elder abuse cases begin to emerge, some countries report an increase of up to 37%. Lockdown measures aggravate the isolation in which abuse takes place and makes is even more difficult for older people to seek support.
“Older victims of abuse and other types of offences have always experienced greater challenges in accessing support services and to be heard by law enforcement bodies”, said Ms. Parent. “Today we urgently need public policies to address elder abuse and provide specific support to victims and survivors”.
The EU should support member states in their efforts to tackle elder abuse. Since 2012, EU’s Victims’ Rights Directive has obliged member states to improve the support and protection available to victims. The upcoming EU Strategy on Victims’ Rights 2020-2024 needs to address the specific needs and challenges of older victims, including victims of elder abuse.
“Today still, despite yearly awareness campaigns on elder abuse, older people are not systematically mentioned in Commission’s work as one of the groups who face situations of vulnerability. This needs to change with the upcoming Strategy. The European Commission has expressed its aim to assess the needs of specific groups of victims, so it must ensure that older people’s needs will be adequately taken on board”, concluded Ms Parent.
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- 2020 World Elder Abuse Awareness Day
- COVID-19 and the human rights of older persons - AGE report
- AGE webpage on COVID-19
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