Secret abuse

• A shockingly high rate of elder abuse could be just the tip of the iceberg, says the WHO.

MORE than 15 per cent of people aged over 60 have suffered some form of abuse, reports the World Health Organisation.

They say far more cases have gone unreported because society still considers elder abuse a private or family matter that should be resolved behind closed doors.

To raise awareness of this disturbing issue, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day was held on Monday (June 15).

“In many parts of the world elder abuse occurs with little recognition or response,” reports the United Nations.

“Until recently, this serious social problem was hidden from the public view and considered mostly a private matter. 

“Even today, elder abuse continues to be a taboo, mostly underestimated and ignored by societies across the world. 

“Evidence is accumulating, however, to indicate that elder abuse is an important public health and societal problem.”


The UN 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”.

They claim it exists in both developing and developed countries, yet is typically underreported globally.

“I call upon governments and all concerned actors to design and carry out more effective prevention strategies and stronger laws and policies to address all aspects of elder abuse. Let us work together to optimise living conditions for older persons and enable them to make the greatest possible contribution to our world,” said UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon.

As part of awareness day, the not-for-profit organisation Relationships Australia released a survey on elder abuse and our attitudes towards older people in society. 

The community-based organisation provides a range of counselling services to families with ageing-related family issues or disputes.

“Relationships Australia believes that all people, regardless of their age, should be able to live their lives free from any kind of abuse, and should be supported to have happy and healthy relationships with all those around them,” said executive officer Nick Tebbey.


“Older people are important members of our community, be they family, friends or neighbours. 

“We encourage everyone to get to know the older people around you and to support them to live their best lives.”

The UN says elder abuse is a a global social issue which affects the health and human rights of millions of older persons around the world, and deserves the attention of the international community.

To take part in the quick survey go to

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