Elder abuse the 'dirty secret of New Zealand society' - advocacy group

With around 80 percent of all elder abuse cases involving family members, an advocacy group is urging people to step in and act if they suspect an elder relative of theirs is being taken advantage of.

Kevin Lamb, chief executive of Age Concern Auckland, says elder abuse is the "dirty secret of New Zealand society" and is often kept "behind closed doors" with many of those involved hoping they can continue to get away because no one notices what they are doing. 

"It can range from psychological abuse - coercion and manipulation to ridicule, humiliation - to financial abuse...or physical abuse," Lamb told The AM Show on Friday. 

"It can be the whole gamut."

A study in 2019 revealed 10 percent of those over 65 have experienced a form of elder abuse, though the real figure is believed to be even higher.

Lamb says older people are particularly vulnerable to suffering from depression if they are victims of abuse or neglect.

"Once you've lost your dignity, once you've lost your self-esteem it's impossible to get it back. And it's very, very easy to then slip into depression," he said.

Because there is generally a lack of support out there, Lamb says it's up to individuals to take action if they suspect elder abuse is going on in their family. 

"The law really isn't on the side of the older person. So what we're really urging people to do is try to spot this before it happens, before it gets out of hand so we can really stop people from slipping into abuse and neglect in the first place."

Anyone needing support can contact Age Concern on 0800 652 105.