What is elder abuse? It’s time to talk on this national day of awareness

SPEAK UP: Wodonga Leading Senior Constables Lynn Furborough and Jaclyn Warchow want the community to have a conversation about elder abuse on the national awareness day, being marked today. Picture: MARK JESSER
SPEAK UP: Wodonga Leading Senior Constables Lynn Furborough and Jaclyn Warchow want the community to have a conversation about elder abuse on the national awareness day, being marked today. Picture: MARK JESSER

Today, the growing movement to safeguard our older generations will be represented by purple ribbons.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day was born from a United Nations General Assembly resolution made in 2011, and has been marked every year since on June 15.

Leading Senior Constable Jaclyn Warchow, part of Wodonga Police’s proactive unit, will be wearing her purple ribbon and having conversations with community members.

“Elder abuse is a form of family violence … more than 90 per cent of elder abuse is perpetrated by a relative, or a partner,” she said.

“Examples of elder abuse include using someone’s money, property or other assets illegally or improperly, causing or threatening to cause injury, and behaviour that intimidates, which may include threats to withhold access to loved ones.

“Victims of elder abuse are sometimes socially isolated with a reliance on a carer, who may be their abuser.”

Family Violence Unit Leading Senior Constable Lynn Furborough said elder abuse could be perpetrated by parents and children.

“Police encourage older community members to speak to police if they are concerned about themselves or another,” she said.

Of limited statistics available, an estimated 2 to 10 per cent of older people will experience elder abuse.

From anecdotal accounts and her own experience advocating for her father, Wodonga woman Maria Berry knows the issue is largely unknown, with awareness similar to that of family violence, but ten years ago.

“It’s taken me seven years to get to this point, and there’s a lot of work being done,” she said.

“We need to pull together, people at a grassroots level and in organisations.”

Mrs Berry spoke at the 5th National Elder Abuse Conference in Sydney in February, telling her story to more than 500 people, including Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt. 

“I was so nervous, and (ABC presenter) Virginia Trioli came over to me and said ‘You can’t go wrong here, people are going to support you’,” she said.

“When I got down I was swarmed, the Senior Rights Australia president had tears running down his face and told me I could ring any time.

“I saw Ken Wyatt in Canberra, while I was there for Alpine Valleys Community Leadership program, and he knows who I am.”

The conference led to a media frenzy for Mrs Berry, who was interviewed for numerous news reports.

She continues to advocate and increase awareness of elder abuse.

Senior Rights Victoria can provide support through a confidential helpline 1300 368 821.

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