Cul­tural shift is needed to re-ig­nite re­spect for elders

Broome Advertiser - - NEWS - Nick Goiran Nick Goiran MLC was chair­man of the Select Com­mit­tee on El­der Abuse and is the shadow min­is­ter for the preven­tion of fam­ily and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

When was the last time you heard some­one say “re­spect your elders”? It seems to me that this value has been lost in re­cent years.

Re­cently I was hon­oured to ta­ble the fi­nal re­port of the Select Com­mit­tee into El­der Abuse. This 12month par­lia­men­tary in­quiry has con­vinced me el­der abuse is a hid­den scourge in our com­mu­nity.

The age­ing process is a uni­ver­sal hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence, in­de­pen­dent of race, re­li­gion or gen­der. It is ironic that a so­ci­ety that en­cour­ages peo­ple to live longer dis­crim­i­nates against those who do reach old age.

Up to 75,000 older peo­ple are at risk of el­der abuse in WA. Most per­pe­tra­tors of el­der abuse are closely re­lated to the vic­tim and there is a strong con­nec­tion be­tween el­der abuse and fam­ily vi­o­lence.

El­der abuse en­com­passes fi­nan­cial, psy­cho­log­i­cal-emo­tional, phys­i­cal, sex­ual and so­cial abuse. It also in­cludes ne­glect.

Psy­cho­log­i­cal and fi­nan­cial abuse of­ten oc­cur in tan­dem, where a per­pe­tra­tor may “groom” a vul­ner­a­ble older per­son us­ing psy­cho­log­i­cally abu­sive be­hav­iours, such as threats or ma­nip­u­la­tion, so that they are more sus­cep­ti­ble to fi­nan­cial abuse.

Wit­nesses ad­vised the com­mit­tee of the com­mon oc­cur­rence where an older per­son en­ters into an ar­range­ment with their adult child to build an ex­ten­sion or new dwelling on the child’s land, with the older per­son’s sav­ings used to con­tribute to or fund the project.

The com­mit­tee heard dev­as­tat­ing sto­ries of West Aus­tralians who found them­selves home­less and des­ti­tute fol­low­ing the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of the fam­ily re­la­tion­ship and after the par­ent is told by their child to leave the home.

Mr Michael Bowyer, prin­ci­pal le­gal of­fi­cer for the Of­fice of the Pub­lic Trustee, gave ev­i­dence to the com­mit­tee about early in­her­i­tance syn­drome.

Mr Bower cited an ex­am­ple where a woman had said: “That’s mine. It’s been left to me in the will.” Mr Bowyer’s re­sponse to her was: “But he’s not dead yet and he needs the money now.”

My hope is that the com­mit­tee’s re­port will be a cat­a­lyst for WA Gov­ern­ment ac­tion to shine a light into this dark place.

One of the most ef­fec­tive ways to pre­vent el­der abuse in the com­mu­nity is to raise aware­ness.

So­cial iso­la­tion and lone­li­ness is one of the big­gest risk fac­tors for el­der abuse and is a source of vul­ner­a­bil­ity in older peo­ple.

De­vel­op­ing and main­tain­ing re­la­tion­ships and en­cour­ag­ing so­cial in­clu­sion de­creases the risk of el­der abuse. If our cul­ture con­tin­ues to shift from self-sac­ri­fice to self-in­ter­est then we can ex­pect the rate of el­der abuse to rise.

We need to trans­form our cul­ture into one that re­spects our elders.

Pic­ture: Getty Im­ages

Most per­pe­tra­tors of el­der abuse are closely re­lated to the vic­tim.

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