Ground-breaking research reveals extent of elder abuse as older people campaign for their rights


By Attila Kulscar

To mark World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on 15 June, HelpAge has published new research that reveals the high levels of violence and abuse experienced by older women and men around the world.

The ADA for Rights delegation in Kyrgyzstan Older people around the world are taking action for our Age Demands Action for Rights campaign. (c) HelpAge International

In Mozambique, Peru and Kyrgyzstan, a sample of 100 people over the age of 50 were surveyed in each country about their experiences of a number of different forms of violence and abuse - financial, emotional, physical and sexual abuse and malicious accusations.

63% of all respondents said they had suffered some form of abuse since they were 50 - in Peru this percentage was above 80% for both the men and women surveyed.

  • The most prevalent form of abuse experienced by respondents was financial abuse - with 76% of older men and 61% of older women of those surveyed in Peru having experienced theft, deception, eviction or other actions involving money or property.
  • In Kyrgyzstan, financial abuse was also the most prevalent form but the overall percentage of respondents reporting abuse was lower than in other countries - 27% of women and 20% of men.
  • Mozambique had the highest prevalence of malicious accusations among respondents in the three countries surveyed: 43% of older women and 35% of older men in Mozambique who took part in the survey had experienced this form of abuse which includes allegations of witchcraft.

Violence does not stop in old age

Eppu Mikkonen-Jeanneret, HelpAge's Head of Policy: "This new research reveals the wide extent and different forms of violence and abuse that older women and older men are experiencing across a range of social and cultural contexts.

"Our survey highlights the fact that violence against women does not stop at the age of 49 - unlike most of the research in this area which does not provide data for the experiences of older people."

The new study - conducted in collaboration with the Centre for the Analysis of Social Exclusion at the London School of Economics  and with financial assistance from the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) - sheds new light on both the levels of abuse experienced and the diversity of the forms of abuse. A full report will be published later in the year.

The call for a new convention

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day will also see older activists taking part in the Age Demands Action for Rights campaign in more than 20 countries. They will meet key decision-makers to urge their governments to insist on a new United Nations convention on the rights of older people, as existing conventions do not cover the specific human rights violations that people experience in old age.

Older activists will be calling on their governments to attend the UN Open-ended Working Group on Ageing (OEWG) where a new UN convention is being discussed.

Kenneth Hemley, 73, an Age Demands Action leader from Jamaica, explains:

"Having a convention on older people's rights would be a step in the right direction. Everyone should be protected under the law. It would make people more aware of their rights throughout the entire world."

Older people take action

As well as meeting decision makers, older people will be taking action to raise awareness of elder abuse. In Thailand for example, there will be radio interviews, a seminar discussing older people's rights and a public march through Chiang Mai.

And in Bangladesh, a debate is happening in cooperation with the Dhaka University Debating Society on the need for a UN convention on the rights of older people.

You can take action by signing our Age Demands Action petition calling for a UN convention on the rights of older people. Every signature counts and brings us closer to our target of 200,000.

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Comments submitted for this page

  • Gladys Vargas Machuca (03 September 2013)

    Excelente estudio, ojala se consiga pronto la Convencin.

  • karyn davies (11 July 2013)

    This is a vital petition

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