World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

By Eugene Clark
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, June 16, 2017
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We need to nurture a culture of respect and reverence for our elderly. [File Photo]

June 15 has been pronounced by the UN as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. It is a day when the world focuses on the abuse and suffering inflicted on older people and the important role played by the elderly in today's society, especially at a time when people are living longer and the elderly in many countries are assuming a larger proportion of the population.

The challenges for the elderly are especially significant for women given the longer life expectancy, lower level of education, discrimination, exposure to violence and lack of opportunity afforded many women. Women are also more likely to suffer unemployment because they work at jobs that are more susceptible to being impacted by advances in technological advancements

Elder abuse takes many forms. It may be physical, for example when nursing care facilities are more focused on profit rather than care or when they are abused by a family member or other relative. It can be, social, financial, psychological or sexual. The abuse can be active or as the result of neglect. It can be structural, such as discrimination in the workplace or lack of educational opportunities. The mistreatment or neglect of the elderly can result in serious physical injuries and long-term psychological consequences and even death.

According to the World Health Organization elder abuse is a violation of human rights and a significant cause of illness, loss of productivity, isolation and despair. (WHO 2002 Active Ageing Policy Framework). It is an issue that impacts not only the person only the elderly person, but their entire network and the community or society as a whole.

Many Asian countries, including China, are working hard to cope with a rapidly aging population and predictions are that abuse of the elderly is likely to increase unless awareness and action is taken to prevent it. However, elder abuse is a significant issue for both developing and developed countries.

Here are some action steps that should be taken.

Culture. We need to nurture a culture of respect and reverence for our elderly. This is a feature of some cultures, China being a noted example. In addition to elder abuse days, we need more focus on celebrating and inculcating in our young the special role and importance of the elderly in our society.

Communities. Greater attention should be given in the design of cities to include structures that cater to the needs of the elderly—transportation, recreation, education, health and so on. We need to give attention to policies and practices that support families and build social capital. The needs of the elderly in our inner cities and rural areas require special attention.

Education both for and about the elderly is required. In a recent article I pointed out the neglect of education for life and the need for greater educational opportunities for the elderly. While society has invested many resources in how to extend the length of life, we need to do far more to educate citizens about how to live a quality life. As the famous Swiss moral philosopher and poet, Henri Frrederic Amiel, wrote: "To know how to grow old is the master work of wisdom, and one of the most difficult chapters in the great art of living." Similarly, schools at all levels should do more to educate all generations about the values that respect and care for the elderly. The professions, for example, law, health, financial institutions and architecture, should give greater attention to the challenges faced by the elderly.

Government policies and legal reforms are required to prevent elder abuse and to prosecute those who engage in it. Special attention should be given to the needs of women, the poor and other groups that have special challenges in this area. Given that the elderly are likely to have to work longer, laws against age discrimination should be enforced.

Organizations. The elderly themselves should become more politically active in advancing policy and other policy reforms that promote care for the elderly in society.

The role of technology. Advances in e-health hold the promise of greatly improving the quality of life for our elderly. At the same time the digital divide can be especially problematic for the elderly who are less likely to be aware of or had the opportunity to benefit from advances in technology, especially in the information age. Government, businesses and other organizations should be proactive in ensuring that the elderly are not left behind.

More research is required by universities and other groups to guide policy and practice in the care and treatment of the elderly.

In conclusion, as stated by novelist Pear S Buck, "Our society must make it right and possible for old people not to fear the young or be deserted by them, for the test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its helpless members."

Eugene Clark is a columnist with For more information please visit:

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors only, not necessarily those of

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