World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2024: AGE members take action

Abuse and neglect in older age is a largely underreported reality in the EU and worldwide. It takes place in many forms and areas and can be perpetuated because of a lack of awareness of what it actually means in practice.

To mark the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) on 15 June, AGE members across EU countries organised various campaigns and activities to promote dignity and respect of older people and shed light on less visible aspects of elder abuse. We have listed – only – a few of them below.

In Spain

The Spanish Red Cross (Cruz Roja) ran a campaign to raise awareness on less visible aspects of ageism and mistreatment. The campaign shed light on the negative, stereotyped view that we have of ageing, and its consequences on the way older people are treated. While physical or psychological violence may be obvious, there are other internalised discriminatory attitudes that can also be considered mistreatment, e.g. not respecting the decision of our parents when they want to live alone, or in a nursing home, removing ATMs in villages, using patronizing working when referring to older people, etc. On this last point, the Spanish Red Cross has published a short video calling for using ‘personas mayores’ instead of the parternalistic ‘nuestros mayores’.

Other campaign visuals were published, featuring what “good treatment” is:

>   In the form of a leaflet: “Older people want to be treated…”

>   As a restaurant menu…

A second focus of the campaign is the abuse against older women, who experience the double discrimination on the ground of age and gender. It here calls for “creating an environment where older women feel supported in their decisions and more included”.

Among the measures suggested by the Spanish Red Cross are to combat elder abuse are:

  • Raising public awareness of this issue to make the situation visible.
  • Interventions by professional caregivers to alleviate the burden on those close to the older person,
  • involvement of multidisciplinary teams acting from different fields (such as justice, health care, mental health care, social services…)
  • Creating a” bond of trust” with the older persons so that they can speak freely without being judged or pushed to do things they do not want to do. Listening, non-judgement and respect for their decisions make this bond of connection possible.
  • Education: holding a couple of hour class sessions in secondary school to debunk clichés and denounce elder abuse and mistreatment.

Acting through education is also what CEOMA is calling for in its press release to mark the WEAAD in order to raise awareness among the younger generations of prevalent ageism and prevent abuse. It also calls for a “law against abuse, mistreatment, violation of the physical and moral integrity of older people” and for facilitating older people’s participation in society and combating isolation and loneliness.

The Spanish organisation has also reminded that older people who experience a situation of abuse and mistreatment can report it to the State Confederation of Active Seniors (CONFEMAC) on the free phone number 900 65 65 66 66 and on its App “StopMaltrato+65”, the first mobile application against abuse and mistreatment of older people, where they can consult a professional through a chat.

Still in Spain, UDP Mayore reaffirms its commitment against abuse and mistreatment of older people in a press release, outlining a series of concrete activities to help address ageism and mistreatment: through training sessions, exchange of good practices, promotion of volunteering, person-centred care models with a community approach and a joint movement against ageism (joint letter to decision-makers).

In France

FIAPA was involved in the video campaign “Ça suffit, brisons le silence” (“Enough is enough, let’s break the silence”) designed to raise public awareness of the need to take action and combat elder abuse. 
In 22 short videos, celebrities who agreed to use their image to support the cause and share testimonies of mistreatment. 

The international organisation of older people highlights the serious physical and psychological consequences caused by elder abuse and the remaining lack of awareness and understanding of these situations, which makes them underreported. A problem that is likely to increase with the rapid ageing of the population in France and in many other countries.

In Belgium

Respect Seniors is organizing on 23 June a public walk in cooperation with two residential care homes and a local advisory council of senior citizens.

The organisation also released its annual report, which reveals some startling figures on the situation of elder abuse in Wallonia (Southern Belgium). More than half of the calls received in 2023 were related to a situation of abuse and the situations are getting more complex, requiring a multi-sectorial approach. Respect Seniors also insists the need for prevention and features the wide range of prevention tools it provides for all audiences and for all ages.

In Germany

On social media, HelpAge Deutschland shared the story of Martha, an older woman in Tanzania, who was the victim of violence because she was regarded as a witch. Luckily, she could receive the support of the organisation.  The German organisation recalled some of the services they offer: self-defence courses for older women, create safe spaces for refugees and give older victims of violence access to psychosocial support.

In the Czech Republic

Zivot 90 shared some results from a national study carried out in 2022: 41% of seniors over 65 suffer from this phenomenon in their immediate surroundings, in public contexts or as witnesses; it affects women as well as men, and it is significantly more common in people aged 85+. The prevalence includes all forms of elder abuse and neglect: physical and psychological violence, material and financial abuse, restriction of personal freedoms, undermining of dignity, sexualised violence, online violence, victimisation and some others. For people over 65 living outside institutional care, the prevalence ranged from 0.1% (drug violence, abuse of drugs to gain control over the victim) to 15% (undermining of dignity). In the population, this corresponds to between 2169 and 325 366 persons per year.

Zivot 90 also reminded the existence of their helpline, open 24 hours a day.

The Czech organisation Elpida also organized a helpline providing psychological support and legal advice to older people, and calls for donations to support their activity.

In Serbia

The Red Cross Serbia was among the speakers at a virtual event held by the United Nations on 14th June.

They also organized a series of activities, including a lecture for women of all ages about Violence against older women, a play with older women titled “Forbidden Love” and the distribution of purple ribbons to the TV stations to mark day. The Res Cross of Servia also presented a research study conducted this year with formal and informal caregivers about Compassion Fatigue in caregivers, which can pose a risk of violence and produced leaflets on “How to Recognize Violence Against Older Women”, which were distributed to all Red Cross organisations.

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External Resources

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