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World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2017, Understand and End Financial Abuse of Older People: A Human Rights Issue

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2017, Understand and End Financial Abuse of Older People: A Human Rights Issue

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  • Abuse and exploitation of the elderly is a disgraceful reality of the times we live in
  • The World Elder Abuse Awareness Day seeks to bring to light the dark facts associated with this major human rights violation issue
  • The 2017 theme for the day is “Understand and End Financial Abuse of Older People: A Human Rights Issue”

Abuse of elderly people is one of the most shameful, and disturbing human rights violation issues of our times, that is prevalent across the world, particularly in developing nations, and yet is grossly overlooked.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines elder abuse as "a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person."Senior citizens or older adults constitute a relatively vulnerable section of the society, thereby making them easy targets for bullying and aggression.

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World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2017, Understand and End Financial Abuse of Older People: A Human Rights Issue

The World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD), initiated in 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization, under the aegis of the United Nations, is observed every year on 15th June. The day calls upon all member states to bring to the fore the pervasive, but largely veiled, public health and human rights issue of abuse, and exploitation, of the aged.

The older adult population aged 60 years and older is expected to reach approximately 1.2 billion in 2025.The WEAAD seeks to promote recognition, and a better understanding of elder abuse and neglect. The aim is to provide targeted information, initiate and encourage interventional strategies, and raise awareness on the interplay of various socio-cultural, economic and demographic processes in every society, that has consequences on senior citizens. Caregivers and healthcare professionals, social service sectors and of course, families, have to be encouraged to recognize the fundamental right of every citizen, senior or otherwise, to live an abuse-free, healthy and happy life.

The World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2017

The 2017 theme for the WEAAD is "Understand and End Financial Abuse of Older People: A Human Rights Issue". Financial deprivation and exploitation happens to be one of the foremost forms of abuse against the aged. Globally, about 5-10% older adults are reported to fall prey to material exploitation. Yet, financial abuse, like all other forms of elder abuse, is widely unreported, and hence the official statistics available could very well just be the tip of the iceberg.

The 2017 WEAAD aims to focus particularly on the financial hardships that an older adult can be made to go through.

Financial exploitation is defined as, "the illegal or improper use, control over, or withholding of the property, income, resources, or trust funds of the elderly person or the vulnerable adult by any person or entity for any person's or entity's profit or advantage other than for the elder person or the vulnerable adult's profit or advantage."

The saddest aspect of such abuse is that the perpetrator is usually a person or persons in whom the exploited individual has placed trust; they might be sons, daughters, close relatives, or caregivers of any form on whom the person is wholly dependent.

Recent research has revealed significant data on financial abuse of the elderly:
  • 1 in 20 older adults report some form of perceived financial exploitation in the recent past
  • About one in 44 cases of financial abuse is reported
  • Death rate in exploited seniors is three times more than that found among un-abused seniors. Elder abuse victims are four times more likely to end up in a nursing home
  • Family members or trusted others constitute 90% abusers
Other forms of elder abuse and neglect include:

Physical Abuse: This includes the non-accidental use of physical force, resulting in bodily harm, physical pain or injury, chronic or acute illness, functional impairment or death. Violent acts with or without the use of a weapon would include beating, hitting, biting, choking, suffocation, shoving, pushing, shaking, pinching, slapping, kicking, stomping, burning. Not only physical assault but the inappropriate use of drugs, restraints, and confinement would also fall under this category.

Emotional Abuse: This refers to verbal and non-verbal behaviour causing mental and emotional distress. It includes regular ridicule and humiliation, intimidation through the use of threats, isolation, control of the activities of the elderly, and consistent blaming and scapegoating.

Sexual Abuse: Often associated with younger people, sexual abuse of the elderly is actually more frequent than one likes to imagine. This includes, but is not limited to, sexual contact with the elderly without his or her consent. Such contact could involve forced physical sex acts, unwanted touching or penetration, and other activities such as showing the person pornographic material, and forcing him or her to undress, and perform, or watch, sexual acts.

Neglect and abandonment: This happens when the health and safety of the aged person is compromised, due to negligence, or ignorance, on the part of the caregiver in providing adequate nutrition, essential medical care, shelter, clothing, hygiene. More than half of the elderly abuse the world over falls under negligence, intentional or unintentional.

Elder abuse: The Indian Scene

According to a 2014 HelpAge India survey, about 50% elders in the country underwent abuse - Bangalore topped the list among metropolis cities with 75% senior abuse, and New Delhi brought up the rear with 22% abuse. Unfortunately, elderly people often tend to safeguard their harassers. This is because, as mentioned before, the perpetrators are in most cases, children and family members of the victim. While sons, along with daughters-in-law are often the main perpetrators, study reveals an emerging trend of daughters turning increasingly abusive. Elder women seniors report an abuse rate of about 53% compared to 48% in elder men.

Most Indian cities have police-run old-age helplines for the welfare of the elderly. In 2007, the Indian Parliament passed the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act to ensure the continued maintenance of the elderly by their children and caregivers. However, very few citizens, senior or otherwise, are actually aware of the existence of the Act, or the helplines.

As life span increases with rapid leaps of technology, every country in the world will have a higher senior population. Yet, society tends to undervalue the elderly, assuming them to be frail, senile and unproductive. We must, however, remember, that even as we stereotype our parents and grandparents, it is to them that we owe our existence in the first place.

It is our duty to give the elders in our families, as well as society in general, a healthy, peaceful life. Let us join hands in making their 'second childhood' happy! Be gentle, report any signs of abuse in elderly people you might know, love your elders! Remember, how you treat them today, might decide how you'll be treated tomorrow.

References :
  1. World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 15 June - (http://www.un.org/en/events/elderabuse/)
  2. Elder Abuse: Definitions - (https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/elderabuse/definitions.html)
Source: Medindia

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