‘COVID-19 Pandemic Is Causing Untold Fear and Suffering for Older People across the World’ – World Elder Abuse Awareness Day


Left: A market vendor sells produce at Victoria Market in Port Victoria, Seychelles. Right: Christine Banlog has been a market woman for 22 years. She is now 64, widowed, and raising her three grandchildren in Nyalla, a locality in the city of Douala, Cameroon. UN Women/Ryan Brown
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Older persons may also face age discrimination in decisions on medical care, triage, and life-saving therapies. Global inequalities mean that, already pre-COVID-19, as many as half of older persons in some developing countries did not have access to essential health services. The pandemic may also lead to a scaling back of critical services unrelated to COVID-19, further increasing risks to the lives of older persons.
António Guterres

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing untold fear and suffering for older people across the world. Beyond its immediate health impact, the pandemic is putting older people at greater risk of poverty, discrimination and isolation. It is likely to have a particularly devastating impact on older people in developing countries.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres

Some older people face additional vulnerabilities at this time. The virus is not just threatening the lives and safety of older persons, it is also threatening their social networks, their access to health services, their jobs and their pensions.

“No person, young or old, is expendable”, spelled out UN Secretary-General António Guterres in a video message to launch a policy brief on older persons last month. The impact on health and long-term care services for older persons must recognize and confront the particular challenges they face, including their ability to access medical treatment and care.

“Older people have the same rights to life and health as everyone else,” underscored the UN chief. “Difficult decisions around life-saving medical care must respect the human rights and dignity of all.”

COVID-19 pandanmic

Policy Brief: The Impact of COVID-19 on older persons

As the world grapples with an unparalleled health crisis, older persons have become one of its more visible victims.

Addressing Elder Abuse

Between 2019 and 2030, the number of persons aged 60 years or over is projected to grow by 38%, from 1 billion to 1.4 billion, globally outnumbering youth, and this increase will be the greatest and the most rapid in the developing world, and recognizing that greater attention needs to be paid to the specific challenges affecting older persons, including in the field of human rights.

Elder abuse is a problem that exists in both developing and developed countries yet is typically underreported globally. Prevalence rates or estimates exist only in selected developed countries — ranging from 1% to 10%. Although the extent of elder mistreatment is unknown, its social and moral significance is obvious. As such, it demands a global multifaceted response, one which focuses on protecting the rights of older persons.

Approaches to define, detect and address elder abuse need to be placed within a cultural context and considered along side culturally specific risk factors. For example, in some traditional societies, older widows are subjected to forced marriages while in others, isolated older women are accused of witchcraft.

From a health and social perspectives, unless both primary health care and social service sectors are well equipped to identify and deal with the problem, elder abuse will continue to be underdiagnosed and overlooked.

Did you know?

  • In 2017, 1 in 6 older persons were subjected to abuse. With lockdowns and reduced care, violence against older persons is on the rise.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic may significantly lower older persons’ incomes and living standards. Already, less than 20% of older persons of retirement age receiving a pension.
  • Older persons are not just victims. They are also responding. They are health workers, carers and among many essential service providers.

10 Priorities for a Decade of Action on Healthy Ageing

 

Investing in these 10 PRIORITIES are investments in societies future. A future that gives older people the freedom to benefit from and contribute to sustainable development and to live long and healthy lives.

*SOURCE: United Nations. Go to ORIGINAL.

Global Issues: Ageing

Population ageing is poised to become one of the most significant social transformations of the twenty-first century, with implications for nearly all sectors of society, including labour and financial markets, the demand for goods and services, such as housing, transportation and social protection, as well as family structures and intergenerational ties.

Learn more about ageing.

Background

Two retirees chatting in a garden, Serbia. Photo: The World Bank/Celine Ferre

Origin

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, designated as 15 June, was initiated by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA) in 2006, and recognised as a United Nations Day by the General Assembly in its resolution A/RES/66/127adopted in 2011.**

The resolution invites all Member States, organizations of the United Nations system and other international and regional organizations, as well as civil society, including non-governmental organizations and individuals to observe this day in an appropriate manner.

A Violation of Older People’s Human Rights

According to World Heath Organization, elder abuse can be defined as “a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship, where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person.” Elder abuse can take various forms such as physical, psychological or emotional, sexual and financial abuse. It can also be the result of intentional or unintentional neglect.

In many parts of the world elder abuse occurs with little recognition or response. Until recently, this serious social problem was hidden from the public view and considered mostly a private matter.

Even today, elder abuse continues to be a taboo, mostly underestimated and ignored by societies across the world. Evidence is accumulating, however, to indicate that elder abuse is an important public health and societal problem.

Scope of the problem

A 2017 study based on the best available evidence from 52 studies in 28 countries from diverse regions, including 12 low- and middle-income countries, estimated that, over the past year, 15.7% of people aged 60 years and older were subjected to some form of abuse.

This is likely to be an underestimation, as only 1 in 24 cases of elder abuse is reported, in part because older people are often afraid to report cases of abuse to family, friends, or to the authorities. Consequently, any prevalence rates are likely to be underestimated.

Although rigorous data are limited, the study provides pooled prevalence estimates of number of older people affected by different types of abuse:

  • psychological abuse: 11.6%
  • financial abuse: 6.8%
  • neglect: 4.2%
  • physical abuse: 2.6%
  • sexual abuse: 0.9%

Globally, the number of cases of elder abuse is projected to increase as many countries have rapidly ageing populations whose needs may not be fully met due to resource constraints.

It is predicted that by the year 2050, the global population of people aged 60 years and older will more than double, from 900 million in 2015 to about 2 billion, with the vast majority of older people living in low- and middle-income countries.

If the proportion of elder abuse victims remains constant, the number of victims will increase rapidly due to population ageing, growing to 320 million victims by 2050.

Infographic

infographic**SOURCE: United Nations. Go to ORIGINAL.

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