Raising Awareness and Understanding of Elder Abuse
The Mental Health Foundation (MHF) will be supporting World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) on Saturday, June 17, and
is encouraging all New Zealanders to join in.
The MHF is committed to working with vulnerable population groups to support their mental health and wellbeing, and
older people are more vulnerable than many people believe.
“We want to draw attention to elder abuse,” says Marie Hull-Brown, Mental Health Promoter for Older People, “because so
often it goes on right under our noses and nobody is aware of it”.
Marie, who just celebrated her 86th birthday, will be dedicating two episodes of her radio show, The Vintage Years on Planet FM, to the issue of elder abuse.
Although media reports of elder abuse in rest homes and hospitals attract public attention, elder abuse isn’t just
physical abuse. It’s using older people’s money without consent, infantilising older people, and trying to control their
decisions about where they live, where they go, and who they talk to.
Elder abuse is usually carried out by a family member, and often no one knows what to do about it. Marie has some
“If you notice that your older friend or neighbour has experienced a sudden change in their life, such as a child or
grandchild moving in with them, find an excuse to have a private chat with them to see how they really feel about it,”
she says. “Never ignore unexpected changes.”
Since an amendment to the Crimes Act in 2012, it is an offence to fail to report suspected abuse or neglect of a
vulnerable adult. Marie advises those who have concerns to first talk to the person you’re worried about, and then to
contact Age Concern.
The MHF wishes to remind Kiwis that we can all take part in taking care of the older people in our lives. Popping in to
have a cup of tea with neighbours, remembering to respect the wishes and decisions of family members (even if we don’t
agree with them), and supporting older people to keep in touch with those who are important to them are small things
that will make a big difference.
If you wish to take part in WEAAD, contact your local Age Concern to find out about activities in your area.