Joint call for release of National Elder Abuse Prevalence Study

24 Sep 2021

Justice Connect, together with the City of Sydney and Eastern Sydney Abuse of Older People Collaborative*, recently wrote to Federal Attorney-General Michaelia Cash calling for the public release of a study on abuse of older people commissioned by the Department.

We know from running our Seniors Law program for over 10 years, that abuse of older people has a devastating effect on individuals, families and communities. Having up-to-date research into elder abuse prevalence would help our services design and deliver targeted interventions into this complex issue and prevent a growing problem affecting approximately 500,000 older people in Australia.

First nationwide study into the prevalence of elder abuse

The lack of an agreed definitional approach in various legislative, policy and practice frameworks is a barrier to develop a consistent approach in how we should measure and respond to the abuse of older people.

For advocates in the sector, we hope that Australia’s first nationwide research into the prevalence of elder abuse, the National Elder Abuse Prevalence Study – recently completed by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) – will shine a light on the causes and pervasiveness of elder abuse, and provide further evidence to support advocacy for increased funding and services safeguarding older people. AIFS was commissioned by the Federal Attorney-General’s Department to conduct a study on the nature of elder abuse and the extent to which it occurs among people aged 65 and over in Australia.

The study involved:

  • a survey examining the experiences of elder abuse among 7,000 people aged 65+ who live in the community (i.e. those who are not in residential aged care settings);
  • a survey of 3,500 people aged 18-64 focussing on knowledge of elder abuse, attitudes to older people and the extent to which participants in the survey provide assistance to older people.

Data was also drawn from each survey to better understand the experiences of older culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) people in Australia.

Targeted responses needed to address and prevent elder abuse

Increasing social isolation and financial pressures due to COVID-19 have led to a rise in elder abuse. As Age Discrimination Commissioner Hon Dr Kay Patterson AO recently highlighted in her National Summit on Women’s Safety and Security for Older Women speech, the number of calls to the National Elder Abuse phone line have almost doubled during the pandemic.

Before COVID-19, social isolation was already a risk factor for elder abuse. Now, without targeted responses that consider the complex and diverse needs of communities, older people face a greater risk of social isolation and abuse.

As frontline agencies working together to meet the needs of older people, we encourage the Federal Government to publicise this study as soon as possible. Insights from this study can help our sector improve the way we work and coordinate our approaches to abuse, and better support older people and their support networks.

Read the full letter

*Members of the City of Sydney and Eastern Sydney Abuse of Older People Collaborative include local councils, hospitals, health and aged care services, and agencies that help older people with legal and social issues.

See our campaign page to end elder abuse.