Belfast Telegraph

23,000 elderly people abused in Northern Ireland every year, says charity

By Allan Preston

More than 23,000 elderly people in Northern Ireland experienced serious abuse each year, according to a survey.

The poll of 3,183 UK adults conducted by Action on Elder Abuse, said nearly one in ten older people in the UK (8.6%) had experienced serious physical, mental or financial abuse.

The charity say this suggests over 23,000 older people are affected in Northern Ireland and nearly one million across the UK as a whole.

Most of the abuse reported was psychological - including threats, intimidation and mockery - with 6.8% of older people questioned saying they had experienced this, suggesting nearly 20,000 people in Northern Ireland are affected.

Physical abuse - which includes hitting, slapping or spitting - was reported by 2.7% of older people questioned, suggesting 7,000 in Northern Ireland are affected each year.

Financial abuse - including misuse of power of attorney, theft and fraud -  was reported by 1.4% of those questioned, indicating more than 4,000 in Northern Ireland are victims.

Sexual abuse - including rape and unwanted touching - was not reported by any older people in the poll, but 2.6% of friends and 1.2% of relatives questioned said they knew an older person this had happened to.

Eddie Lynch, the Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland (COPNI), called for new laws to protect vulnerable older people.

“I am disgusted that elder abuse remains a feature of our society,” he said.

“Abuse against an older person causes significant fear and distress. It can take many forms, such as physical, emotional, sexual and financial and is often perpetrated by someone with whom the older person has a relationship of trust.”

Unlike in England, Scotland and Wales, he said there was no single piece of legislation in Northern Ireland to protect older people from abuse. “

He continued: “Prior to the collapse of Stormont I asked the Executive to bring forward legislation which will protect all older people from abuse. Whilst there is a delay in the introduction a single Adult Safeguarding Bill, older people will remain unprotected.”

 A spokesperson from the charity Age NI said they were “shocked and saddened” any older person should experience any form of abuse.

“Every older person should be treated with dignity and respect, able to live in safety and free from harm,” they said.

“It is crucial that when an older person raises concerns about abuse that they are listened to and supported in taking the matter forward. We can all play our part in creating a society which values older people and protects and safeguards their rights.”

Veronica Gray, the Director of Action on Elder Abuse Northern Ireland, said the abuse was a “massive problem” in Northern Ireland with no effective deterrent.

“The criminal justice system is failing to deter abusers, too many care providers provide neglectful care, and the adult protection process often fails to protect,” she said.

She added it was likely that friends and relatives observed more abuse than older people acknowledged themselves was due to victims being afraid to speak out, being dependent on their abusers, feeling powerless to stop it or lacking the capacity to recognise what was happening.

Action on Elder Abuse NI have called for crimes of abuse against the elderly to be treated the same way as hate crimes, an aggravated offence, recognising the fact elderly people are targeted because of their vulnerability and suffer more in the aftermath of their crimes.

Age NI’s Advice and Advocacy Service offers information and independent advice to older people suffering abuse and can be called free on  0808 808 7575.

Action on Elder Abuse NI  works to prevent the abuse of older people and can be contacted via their confidential freephone helpline on 080 8808 8141.

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