Headlines: January 30th, 2006

A survey today shows that only two per cent of people see abuse of elderly people as a priority, in spite of evidence that suggests it affects as many as 1 in 8 older people. The results are published by Help The Aged as it launches a campaign to raise awareness of the problem of elderly people being abused through violence, neglect and financial exploitation.Today’s findings, taken from research conducted for the charity by Andrew Irving Associates, show that tackling child abuse, cancer and cruelty to animals top a list of issues cited by the public as the causes they would most readily support. The researchers found, though, that prevailing taboos could be lifted with respondents being far more willing to identify abuse of older people as a priority once they were prompted. About two thirds of those questioned eventually cited the issue as one they felt strongly about.

The campaign challenges people to sign up to the pledge “I will” to show their determination to help stop the abuse. It is being run in partnership with the charity Action on Elder Abuse, and aims to address current low awareness of various kinds of abuse, ranging from financial exploitation, emotional bullying and neglect to violence committed against older people by their friends and family or by professional carers.

The survey shows that people most commonly assume that professional carers are most likely to be the perpetrators of abuse and old people in care homes are most commonly identified as being at the highest risk. In fact the evidence suggests that most people responsible for abuse are related to those on the receiving end. A quarter of cases involve sons and daughters. More than half of those questioned were adamant that no abuse of any kind happened within their own families. By contrast as many as two thirds accepted that serious abuse incidents happened in their town. Help the Aged fears such ignorance means abuse of dependent and vulnerable older people goes undetected and unreported.