Taking a stand on elder abuse

Florence Shearman.

A stand being set up outside Cambridge’s Comins Phamacy this week will highlight the growing problem of elder abuse in this and other New Zealand communities.

New Zealand ‘s Elder Abuse Awareness Week will run from June 15 to 22 to align with World Elder Abuse Day on June 15. This year’s NZ theme – Elder Abuse Hits Close to Home –  has been chosen because many older people are found to be suffering abuse from family members.

The stand outside Comins Pharmacy is just one local initiative being organised to mark the awareness week. It has been organised by local volunteer for the elderly, Florence Shearman, and is being supported by Age Concern, Grey Power, Work and Income, the police and other agencies involved in working with the elderly.

Data gathered by Age Concern New Zealand reveals an increasing prevalence of abuse among older people, often at the hands of other family members. Cases of psychological abuse make up the highest percentage of reports, followed by neglect, self-neglect, physical, institutional and sexual abuse. Often there is more than one type of abuse occurring simultaneously, and only one in 14 cases of alleged elder abuse are said to be reported, suggesting the problem is even greater than official figures indicate.

Florence said she has witnessed increased forms of abuse – including by family members – in the Cambridge area over her years of volunteering for local seniors.

“Our aged population is growing, and so are the numbers of incidences of neglect and abuse,” she said.  “There are also increasing problems involving older people living on their own and finding it difficult to get out – to the shops, the doctor or just to socialise. It results in cases of extreme loneliness and sometimes self-neglect. There is a lot of support needed for these people.”

Florence said the stand outside Comins Pharmacy would serve to both raise awareness and distribute information of value to seniors and their families. Among the other agencies who will be there is Charles Gower, advocate at the Waikato-based Nationwide Health and Disability Advocacy Trust, and representative from the Cambridge Care and Craft group will be on hand to share information on their activities.

Florence said she hoped there would be a representative of the “It’s Not OK” initiative, a Violence-Free Waipa campaign aimed at tackling domestic violence across the boards.

The stand will be up and running from 9.30am to noon on Thursday, June 14.

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