Elder Abuse, It's Not Ok

Elderly abuse is a very sensitive topic within Pacific communities, but it is something that needs to be talked about and confronted, not just in the community but within the family.

While discussion is needed, it’s just as important that we all look out for signs of abuse.  The Office for Seniors NZ provided a fund to focus on violence prevention and acknowledged the pressing need to support diverse communities which include Pacific. 

In the wake of 2024 World Elder Abuse Awareness Day this month, the Office for Seniors highlighted some startling figures. 

It said as many as one in ten older people in Aotearoa will experience some type of elder abuse, and most of it is either ignored, or not recognised. 

It regards elder abuse as any act that causes harm to an older person, including: 

  • Psychological abuse - threats, humiliation or harassment that causes feelings of shame, distress or powerlessness
  • Financial abuse - illegal use of someone's money/assets, or being pressured to alter a will or sign documents
  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Neglect of any kind, whether intentional or unintentional
  • Not providing food, housing or medical care

At its most extreme, abuse may even be criminal, but one of the big problems with elder abuse in New Zealand is that it is not easy to identify. People may not understand that what's happening is wrong, or they could even be afraid to speak out. 

And, in many cases the abuser can be someone close to home, someone the older person depends on for support or care. Often, they live with the person, or it is a friend or neighbour. 

The Office said that those suspecting that an older person is being abused should look out for signs, such as fear of a particular person, depression or withdrawal, reluctance to talk openly or letting others speak for them and worry or anxiety. 

It also said people are more at risk of abuse if they are in financial hardship, or poor health, depend on others to help them take care of themselves, don't have friends or family close by, or had limited education. 

The Office of Seniors said if you suspect that someone is suffering from elder abuse, there are a number of things you can do. They include simply asking if they are OK, or if they want to talk, or is there anything you can do to help them. It said you could also just come straight out and ask, "is someone hurting you?" 

The Office for Seniors published two short publications on the signs of abuse and neglect.  

Hidden Harm shines a light on psychological abuse of older people, stressing that the thought that elder abuse is mainly physical is a common misconception, leading to a lack of awareness of the psychological harm older people may face. 

DON’T LOOK AWAY looks at the complex issue of neglect as it involves what isn't done, rather than what is. It's not about a single instance like a forgotten meal, but a pattern of disregard for an older person's needs, including medical and emotional care. This short guide highlights some of the less obvious signs of neglect. It comes from the complex premise that neglect involves what isn’t done for an older person rather than what is done to them. 

Download to publication HERE

HIDDEN HARM focuses on psychological elder abuse, a problem that often goes unnoticed. It's a common misconception that elder abuse is mostly physical, leading to a lack of awareness about the psychological harm many older people face. This short guide explains how to identify its signs. 

Download to publication HERE

Vaka Tautua is a national Pacific health provider offering Elder Abuse Response Services (EARS).  Ngatuakana Kino is based at its West Auckland branch and says that abuse is a growing problem. Read more HERE 

You may also be interested in:

Honouring our Elders

Leading the Way to a Better Future

TOA PACIFIC Celebrate 20 Years

DON’T LOOK AWAY … REACH OUT FOR HELP – CLICK HERE for list of Pacific Providers

Office for Seniors 

Elder Abuse – It’s not ok SPEAK OUT 

Phone - 0800 32 668 65 

Text – 5032 

Email – support@elderabuse.nz

Pasefika Proud is a social change movement – ‘by Pacific for Pacific’ – to boost wellbeing for Pacific families and transform attitudes, behaviours and norms that enable violence. Our name and strapline embody our strengths-based, community-led approach.

Pasefika Proud Vision: Pacific families and communities are safe, resilient and enjoy wellbeing through social connections, healthy and happy lifestyles, cultural identity, personal security and safety, spirituality.

Pasefika Proud change strategies: mobilising pacific communities + capability development + strategic priorities.

Download – Pasefika Proud Pathways for Change 2019-2023

Pasefika Proud: Our Families, Our People, Our Responsibility