World Elder Abuse Awareness Day: alarmingly high rates of abuse in residential facilities

WHO

Up to 33% of older residents reported being abused in the past year.

On 15 June 2018, countries will mark the 13th annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD). Elder abuse takes many forms, including psychological, physical, financial and sexual abuse as well as neglect.

A new study by WHO indicates alarmingly high rates of abuse in residential facilities. Up to 33% of older residents reported being abused in the past year. The study also revealed that 2 out of 3 staff reported abusing older residents. Elder abuse in these institutions is a complex problem with different contributing factors. Urgent multisectoral actions, including response from the health sector, are needed.

The WHO Strategy and action plan for healthy ageing in Europe 2012–2020 recommends actions to combat elder abuse. These include building awareness, improving the quality of services in communities and providing proper support to the staff of residential facilities.

Around the world, governments can do more to address and prevent elder abuse. The health sector can:

  • raise awareness within the health sector and other sectors about the health and social burden of elder abuse;
  • recognize elder abuse as a public health problem and establish a focal point to address elder abuse;
  • develop and test evidence-based interventions to prevent elder abuse;
  • provide services to victims of elder abuse; and
  • collaborate with other sectors to address elder abuse, such as the criminal justice, health and social services sectors.

We can all support WEAAD by:

  • reaching out to older friends, neighbours or relatives to fight social isolation;
  • joining a local elder abuse prevention committee or network;
  • watching for warning signs and learning when, where and how to report abuse; and
  • learning about the rights of older persons and informing them of these rights.