Elder abuse is 'New Zealand's hidden secret' says Age Concern CEO

A study of New Zealand's elderly population has revealed 10 percent of those over 65 have experienced a form of elder abuse, and the majority of cases occur within families.

The real figure is likely higher, as it's estimated 3 out of 4 cases go unreported the New Zealand Longitudinal Study of Aging says.

The chief executive of charity organisation and advocacy group Age Concern spoke to The AM Show about what he calls "New Zealand's greatest hidden secret."

"I think it's one of these hidden secrets that's out there in New Zealand society. We discuss domestic violence but we don't really discuss elder abuse," Kevin Lamb said on Friday.

 "We put it in the shadow, we put it in the corner and we don't think about it,"

Elder Abuse Awareness Week begins on Saturday, and Lamb says people need to be aware of how many forms elder abuse can take.

"It can be a range of things. It can be bullying, it can be isolation, keeping people away from their communities, it can be physical abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse, it can be a whole range of things" he told The AM Show.

In the majority of cases the abuse happens within families.

"Abuse and neglect can happen everywhere, but sadly around 75 to 80 percent [of cases] happens in families, with people of trust,"

Changes in behaviour and unusual spending are two of the warning signs to watch for.

"You're looking for changes in behaviour, something that's different from how they used to be so if all of a sudden they're recoiling from touch or they're avoiding eye contact, maybe feeling a bit drowsy all the time cause they've been overmedicated," Lamb said.

He also mentioned the need to be aware of financial abuse.

"[Watch for] unusual patterns of spending, so they're spending money they weren't spending before or unusual things are being delivered to the house," he continued.

If you suspect an elderly person you know is being abused, the first place to call is Age Concern on 0800 32 668 65.

The organisation provides free, confidential and specialist services for victims of elder abuse and neglect.


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