Council of the Ageing reaches out to ‘hidden’ elders

SOCIAL isolation and elder abuse are causing more and more senior citizens to become part of a growing "hidden" community.

"We're tackling this head on," says Mark Tucker-Evans, CEO of Queensland's Council of the Ageing, who has welcomed the state government's $18 million commitment to help prevent the problem.

"The elderly are becoming a community in isolation, tucked away from society and exposed to the abuse that comes with this," Mr Tucker-Evans said.

"The money allocated by the state will help ensure those socially isolated will be supported by non-government organisations," he said.

"COTA, as the peak organisation for seniors, will work with other organisations to identify problems among the aged in their respective catchment areas."

Speaking with Seniors Newspaper, Mr Tucker-Evans said COTA would engage volunteer seniors - ambassadors - to identify and connect with people who were becoming socially isolated. Such volunteers would also be reducing their own isolation.

According to Professor Andrew Beer, who headed a study by the Australian Research Council, social isolation and elder abuse have become more harmful than not exercising and twice as harmful as obesity.

"Social isolation is equivalent to the health effects of smoking 15 cigarettes a day or consuming more than six alcoholic drinks daily," Professor Beer says.

COTA Queensland has been a strong age-friendly advocate since the World Heritage Organisation (WHO) launched its age-friendly cities and communities initiative in 2007. WHO is co-sponsoring the 13th global conference on ageing, which will be hosted by COTA Queensland at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre from June 21 to 23.

"Age-friendly communities are inclusive and accessible environments for all ages," Mr Tucker-Evans said.

"This initiative recognises that the world's population is ageing and that governments and communities need to work together to ensure that society supports communities for all ages."

Mr Tucker-Evans brought a wealth of community support knowledge to Queensland when he joined COTA in 2001. He was manager of the Hunter Valley Research Foundation and helped reposition communities pending the closure of BHP's Newcastle steel plant in 1999. He moved to Queensland in the mid-1980s to manage Queensland Regional Dailies News Service before becoming principal project officer with the offices of Premier and Cabinet and State Development.


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