World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD for short) was created by a United Nations resolution in 2011. It designated 15th June as the day each year when “Member States and civil society [were asked] to strengthen their resolve and redouble their efforts to eliminate all forms of violence and abuse against older people” by the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
What is elder abuse?
The World Health Organisation has taken Action on Elder Abuse’s definition of abuse and adopted it – it is 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, or it can happen as a result of intentional or unintentional neglect.
How many people suffer from elder abuse in the UK each year?
Elder abuse is hard to identify because, like child abuse, it often happens ‘behind closed doors’. In 2014 an independent Comic Relief study estimated that over 500,000 older people are abused across the UK each year. Elder abuse can cause severe humiliation, suffering and emotional scars to victims who are often vulnerable, infirm or disabled, and nearing the end of their lives.
What is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD)?
This year WEAAD is Thursday 15th June. It is a day to raise awareness of elder abuse, to try and influence the legislative process, and to fundraise to help prevent abuse in all of its forms. The United Nations Assembly predicts that the global population of people aged over 60 will more than double to 1.2 billion by 2026, and that by 2050 over 20% of the world’s population will be aged 60 plus. They also calculated that 4-to-6% of older people have received some form of mal-treatment at home which can lead to serious physical injuries and long-term psychological consequences. Elder abuse is therefore a growing issue worldwide and one we need to act to stop now!
What people can do for WEAAD
From 12th to 18th June, and particularly on Thursday 15th June, groups, organisations and individuals will be running a range of activities to highlight the issue of elder abuse right across the United Kingdom. The event is also an opportunity to let local communities know that staff in the care sector are committed to good quality care and support.
In previous years Action on Elder Abuse has seen care staff-organised sponsored wheelchair pushes, council staff abseiling down buildings, balloon releases, bucket rattling, bake sales, people wearing purple clothing on the day (purple being the brand colour for WEAAD), the circulation of awareness-raising leaflets and much more … Our organisation has an A to Z guide of ideas that is available to download and help those interested in planning events & activities. Click here for your copy – What will you do this year?
How WEAAD helps
By raising the profile and money on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, we hope to influence politicians and government, as well as drawing the attention of the general public to the issue. The day also allows Action on Elder Abuse to raise vital funds to continue with the provision of services and to fight for improvements to legislation in the four nations of the UK.
Action on Elder Abuse is calling for the abuse of older people to be made an aggravated criminal offence with statutory minimum sentences for all types of abuse. The Criminal Justice system is failing to protect older victims with most cases never being prosecuted, and the police using cautions as an easy, and cheap, way of avoiding the time and cost of a prosecution. Cases taken to court often result in only a suspended sentence or community service. In our 2015-16 analysis only 3,012 cases resulted in a successful prosecution, 0.7% of the 500,000 cases of abuse across the UK each year. When compared with racially motivated crimes (10.3%), homophobic & transphobic crimes (4.2%), domestic abuse (3.8%) and disability hate crime (1%), elder abuse victims are not treated fairly!
An aggravated offence of elder abuse would take account of the frailty of victims and the circumstances of the abuse. Theft does not kill younger victims, but it can kill older ones because trauma has a negative effect on the immune system of older people. If we accept the argument for aggravated offences for racially and religiously motivated crimes, why not for our older people?
Money raised by World Elder Abuse Awareness Day will help fight this and other campaigns to end elder abuse.
Action on Elder Abuse’s Services
Action on Elder Abuse (Charity number 1140543) was established in 1993 as a specialist organisation focusing exclusively on issues relating to the abuse of older people. It coordinates all activities in the UK for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on behalf of the United Nations. We work with partners such as Age UK and The Silver Line, who help promote WEAAD & also direct callers with concerns about abuse to Action on Elder Abuse’s Response Helpline for specialist support and advice.
We provide direct support to over 25,000 victims of elder abuse annually and reach many more through our awareness-raising activities and policy work. We work right across the United Kingdom and our work includes:
- Running a helplines dedicated exclusively to the issue of elder abuse. Providing practical support, information and guidance for older people and anyone concerned about an older person.
- Establishing the Elder Abuse Recovery Service (EARS), a specialist volunteering & befriending scheme, which utilises the skills, support & goodwill of trained volunteers to help abuse victims overcome the trauma they have experienced and regain the confidence and ability to re-engage with their former lifestyles. It is a key tool in re-integrating elderly victims with society, and their local community.
- We work with the media, writing articles and commenting on abuse cases to raise awareness of elder abuse and influence social policy.
- We undertake project work and social policy activity. Activities have resulted in a major focus by Government on adult safeguarding. Recent achievements include a Parliamentary Health Select Committee Inquiry into elder abuse and Adult Safeguarding clauses having been inserted into the 2014 Care Act.
- We also provide educational materials and direct training for those working with older people, including advocates, volunteers and unpaid community workers.
If you know anyone being abused, or at risk of abuse, who needs help, please call our FREE helpline on 08 08 808 81 41
If you would like more information or advice on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day or would like to learn how you can plan an event to fundraise and help us prevent abuse, please email: RobertHacking@ElderAbuse.org.uk or call him on 020 8835 9289 – Thank-you for your interest!