“SOMEONE cries and asks for help” every time Peninsula Advisory Committee for Elders chair Jeanette Lane and her group run an Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
“People talk about family violence but we think elder abuse is about the second or third most common crime in the world,” Ms Lane said.
“We run programs on elderly abuse at Rosebud, Hastings and McRae because we want to get the message out there and we see and hear about some dreadful aspects.”
Ms Lane was talking in the lead up to the fourth National Elder Abuse Conference, being held by Seniors Right Victoria at the Pullman on the Park hotel, Melbourne, 23-25 February.
The topic has special relevance for older residents of the Mornington Peninsula, where more than 10 per cent are aged over 75 years.
Shire statistics show a greater proportion of elderly residents live here than in the rest of Melbourne.
The 2011 Census shows those aged 70-84 accounted for 12.3 per cent of 17,761 people, compared to Greater Melbourne’s 7.4 per cent of 16,400 people.
Those aged 85 accounted for 2.9 per cent of 4197 people, compared to Greater Melbourne’s 1.8 per cent of 3255 people.
At 11.7 per cent, Rosebud West has the peninsula’s highest proportion of people aged 85 and over.
With the ABC’s Libby Gorr as MC, the conference aims to bring together practitioners seeking a national approach to tackling elder abuse. Its theme is Ageism, Rights and Innovations.
Speakers are federal Attorney General George Brandis, Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan and Professor Marie Beaulieu, of Quebec, an expert on elder abuse. Other speakers are Professor Mick Dodson, of the Centre for Indigenous Studies, ANU, and Dr Jacqueline Berman.
Dr Berman, of New York, will speak about the impact of elder abuse on older peoples’ mental health.
Seniors Rights Victoria says more than 90 per cent of all elderly abuse cases are by a relative. About 67 per cent of that abuse is by children.
Ms Lane said she and a colleague, Evelyn Webster, “never stopped the whole time we were there” when running an elder abuse awareness program at Rosebud Plaza last year.
She described pleas for help from elderly people being physically, emotionally and financially abused – often by their children – as “mindboggling and frightening”.
“In one case, an elderly Rosebud man had been forced to live in the shed when his son took over his house. In another, two grandparents had been forced out of their home by their grandchildren with just the clothes on their backs and were living on the foreshore,” Ms Lane said.
“This kind of thing goes on and every time we run a program; we can’t believe the number of elderly people seeking our support.”
Positive-ageing summits will be held this year at Rosebud, Hastings and Mornington.
The summits aim to make elderly people aware of abuse through discussions, talks and videos, and to advise on strategies to combat it.
“In one instance an elderly Mornington woman had gone to the bank only to find that her account had been cleaned out by her live-in son: she went home and abused him and told him not to touch her money. This was a positive action – not passive acceptance of the situation,” Ms Lane said.
“She stood up to her son and was strong – that’s the key to beating it.”
Case studies by Seniors Rights Victoria staff “based on our actual client experiences” on the peninsula show that in most cases, when the client seeks help, they are actually seeking help for their child rather than themselves. Parents just can’t stop being parents.
Older Victorians experiencing elder abuse can get help from Seniors Rights Victoria, 1300 368 821. The office is open 10am-5pm, Monday to Friday. Services include a helpline, legal services, short-term support and advocacy. Visit seniorsrights.org.au