Breaking the silence on elder abuse in Moldova
On 12 November 2015 we launched the research report, Breaking the Silence: Elder abuse in the Republic of Moldova, which brought to light the hidden and distressing phenomenon of discrimination and abuse of older women and men. The report is the outcome of a survey-based research project funded by the European Commission and UNFPA, and the project has been widely publicised by the government, UN agencies, civil society and the mass media.
Elder abuse: some facts
Demographic projections for the Republic of Moldova indicate a staggering growth in the number and proportion of older people in the total population, which will have significant effects on the economy and society.
Of the older people surveyed, up to a quarter (28.6%) suffer direct violence and abuse. The most frequent forms of abuse is psychological and emotional (14%), economic or financial abuse (11%) and physical violence (4.4%). In every fourth case (24.8%) the perpetrator is a family member. One third of these people mentioned repeated acts of violence from said family member. Older people living alone are more likely to be subjected to violence from other relatives (37.7%).
Misconceptions around ageing
Our research shows that discriminatory attitudes and prejudices about old age affect all areas of lives of older women and men in Moldova. Negative stereotypes about old age persist, and it is only associated with frailty, loneliness, dependence, burden and discrimination. 40% of adult respondents are anxious about growing older, and every fifth person has a negative attitude to this stage of life.
Of the respondents who classified themselves as victims of abuse, two thirds of people are women. This proportion was steady throughout all forms of abuse.
Just how hidden is it?
53% of all victims who responded to our survey were too frightened to reveal the identity of their abuser. However, we found that the wider public is aware of violence and abuse towards older people, particularly of women. Age discrimination, as well as neglect and social isolation was well recognised.
How can we tackle elder abuse?
Poverty among older people is a serious problem in Moldova and should be given priority in government and development policies. Over half of Moldova’s older people are without enough resources for decent living, and the pension does not cover basic necessities. Poverty in rural areas is 57.7%, compared to urban areas where 48.6% reported this problem. The employment level of older people is relatively low as 11.6% of older people work in full or part time employment.
Every second older person suffers from chronic diseases. Only 72.6% benefit from medical assistance when they need it. Other respondents mentioned that they need to travel long distances to medical centers and unofficial payment demands and transportation costs also hinder access to medical services. 11.3% older people surveyed do not have financial resources to take care of their health, and 35% cannot afford to buy medicines when needed.
Violence and abuse of older people is multifaceted and requires a comprehensive and holistic approach. Individual strategies and interventions to deal with cases of abuse must be implemented. We also recommend improving the socio-economic situation of older people by providing employment opportunities, improving access to healthcare, tackling the stigma around ageism and developing and promoting intergenerational solidarity.
The full research report will be available shortly.