Elder Abuse: New inquiry into laws that safeguard seniors

Leading seniors advocate, COTA Australia, today welcomed Federal Attorney General George Brandis' acknowledgement of the growing incidence of elder abuse and his commitment to an inquiry into laws which safeguard older people.   

Senator Brandis opened the 4rd National Elder Abuse Conference in Melbourne hosted by Seniors Rights Victoria by announcing the inquiry by the Australian Law Reform Commission.  

COTA Chief Executive Ian Yates said the inquiry was a good first step but more was needed to protect older people.   He said it was difficult to know the full extent of the issue of elder abuse as so much of it happens behind closed doors, but there has been growing evidence for some years now that it needs urgent attention, and we can be certain that the incidence of abuse is greater than we currently know about.  

Mr Yates said a national, coordinated elder abuse strategy was needed and joined the calls by almost all practitioners in this field for a national prevalence study as a first step in better quantifying the extent of abuse being suffered by older people.  

"Elder abuse can take many forms," Mr Yates said, "including financial, physical, emotional and sexual. It can happen in the home or in a formal care situation. It can be an act of violence, threats or simple neglect, and it is often theft.   "Sadly many older people are vulnerable to abuse as their situation can make it hard to speak out about it.  

"It can have lasting debilitating effects on the health and wellbeing of older people, some who never fully recover.   "Elder abuse can particularly go left unchecked as people grow more frail, suffer associated mental health issues and are isolated from the broader community.  

"Our population is ageing. It's imperative that we understand the issues now and have strategies in place to protect the growing numbers older people.  

"There will be no single answer. A multi-pronged and coordinated approach needs to be prioritized by all levels of government, caregivers and communities to ensure vulnerable older people are safe and valued."


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