How would you define elder abuse?

A think tank is calling on Australians to help it define elder abuse, so the Federal Government can develop a strategy to deal with a potential crisis as more baby boomers lose their independence.

Research suggests that between two per cent and 10 per cent of older Australians are subjected to abuse each year, usually by a family member, and that instances of neglect are even higher.

The Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) is being funded by the Attorney-General’s Department to develop the first stage of a project titled Elder Abuse National Research Strengthening the Evidence Base. The project comprises:

  • working with the National Ageing Research Institute (NARI) to engage key stakeholders to develop a nationally accepted and usable Australian definition of elder abuse

  • working with the Social Research Centre to develop and test instruments to measure elder abuse against the Australian definition

  • working with the Social Policy Research Centre to develop a data analysis plan and conduct secondary data analysis to answer key research questions on elder abuse. 

“The project will commence with a series of workshops across Australia with key stakeholders and professionals in this field,” the AIFS said in a statement. “This will be followed by a number of surveys with the elder community, general public and service providers to refine the definition of elder abuse …”

The institute aims to develop a comprehensive picture of the contexts, dynamics and risk factors associated with elder abuse by interrogating existing data sources.

The institute said that elder abuse can include “the physical, emotional, sexual or financial abuse or neglect of an older person by another person in a position of trust”.

“As older people make up an increasing proportion of the Australian population the potential reach of the abuse of older abuse may grow,” said Rachel Carson, Manager of the Family Law and Family Violence Team at AIFS. 

“To protect older people from abuse, we must first be able to identify and measure the extent of the problem,” she said. 

“We’re keen to make sure that we’re measuring the right things in the future.”

Anyone who would like to contribute their views about what defines abuse of older people can contact the project team before the end of January by email: [email protected] or phone (03) 9214 7865.

The AIFS is expected to report back to the Attorney-General in the second half of this year.

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Written by Olga Galacho


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