Talking about elder abuse
AN Auckland organisation is helping South Asian seniors stand up against abuse as the number of reported incidences of elder mistreatment continues to climb nationwide.
Onehunga-based Shanti Niwas Charitable Trust has provided cultural activities for Indian and South Asian seniors for more than two decades.
But after seeing an increase in clients with grievances about maltreatment the trust decided to launch Khushi – an initiative focused on supporting victims and preventing abuse.
‘‘The most common form of abuse we see is neglect,’’ project manager Nilima Venkat says.
Adjusting from a bustling lifestyle in India to a quiet New Zealand suburban life riddled with language barriers can be difficult for older family members, Ms Venkat says.
‘‘Often the younger people have got no time for the older people, maybe they are just busy with their own lives and their own children. Sometimes it’s deliberate, sometimes it’s just that nobody has time for them.’’
Ms Venkat says financial abuse is the second most common form of elder abuse seen by Khushi staff.
Cases include seniors whose superannuation is paid into an account they don’t have access to, or being coerced into being guarantors for other people’s loans.
‘‘What mostly happens is when these older people come from India and most of them have had houses at this age, so they sell off the house and bring the money here and they give it to their children. The children buy a house in their own name, so the money is gone basically,’’ she says.
culture, whatever we have is for the children but we expect the children to reciprocate and look after them. And that part is not happening.’’
Ms Venkat says stigma is a huge barrier to people coming forward for help, especially because perpe- trators are often family members so victims fear a backlash.
‘‘By the time a case comes to us it’s either a very serious assault or it’s gone beyond everyone’s limits of patience.
‘‘That’s why we try and empower them to come and talk during the initial stages so we can solve the problem easily.’’
Onehunga based Labour list MP Carol Beaumont regularly visits the Shanti Niwas centre and says Khushi is an important initiative that can offer culturally appropriate support.
Ms Beaumont is currently exploring the dimensions of the problem of financial abuse after it was bought to her attention.
‘‘I’m actively looking into that area to try and identify how big a problem it is and what possible solutions there might be,’’ she says.
Elder abuse is not limited too any particular ethnic or socio-economic group.
Advocacy and support service Age Concern estimates in a 12-month period 20,000 elderly people nationwide will experience abuse.
A spokeswoman says the number of referrals is increasing, with demand for its services up 30 per cent in the last year.
‘‘We don’t have any idea whether it is actually the amount of elder abuse that is increasing but we know that more people are aware of it, so they are more likely to speak about it.’’
Helping hand: Nilima Venkat is the project manager for Khushi, an elder abuse support programme run by Shanti Niwas Charitable Trust.