Elder abuse on the rise in New Zealand


Elder abuse is becoming “increasingly common” according to two organisations working with older people.

Data is piling up.

Minister for Seniors Ayesha Verrall says one in 10 older people experience elder abuse in New Zealand.

Age Concern says it received around 825 referrals to cases of elder abuse in the 12 months to June 2022, up from around 200 referrals a year in 2016.

National Pacific health provider, Vaka Tautua has dealt with 147 cases of elder abuse in west Auckland alone since 2019. Data shows a steady increase in referrals, with 20 in the year 2019-2020 and 57 in the year 2020-2021. In the year 2021 to date, there have been 70 referrals.

It’s clearly a growing problem. Just how big could be anybody’s guess.

“It’s every day, (there are) more of these cases now,” says Vaka Tautua social worker Ngatuakana Kino.

As Age Concern notes “The honest truth is we don’t really know what the full scale of the problem is, because the more resources you have available to support people, the more people come out of the woodwork to say that they need help.

“We certainly haven’t plateaued yet, we haven’t reached the top of the curve.”

Lamb said abuse brings about “terrible feelings” of shame and embarrassment for elderly victims.

“Seventy-five to 80 percent of the cases we deal with are in families, so they’re fearful that they’re going to lose their independence or they’re going to get their family into trouble.

“It’s almost just being in a position of denial because they can’t bear the thought that their children or grandchildren would be doing this to them.”

Neglect, financial, emotional and physical abuse left victims “lost and isolated,” Kino says.

Knowing the signs of elder abuse means she is often the first person to notice when it’s happening in her church community.

Unusual quietness and visible bruises are two signs she looks out for. If these issues persist, it could be a sign of elder abuse.

“The cuts, the bruises in the face… the quietness. If it’s too often it’s not normal.” But it gets normalised.

People often think a formerly social parent’s quietness or lack of interest in engaging with others is just not being as loud as before, or just caught up in one corner of the church and not wanting to engage with anybody.”

Then there’s isolation “When no family is allowed to come over to the home and it’s basically mum and son, and son is the abuser, all those things are happening daily. That becomes a norm for her.

“Lockdown was a classic example for these abusers to do … whatever they wanted to do. They’re in control. I can see it my community.”

Coping with the problem costs money. That’s another concern.

Lamb calls the Government funding a “drop in the ocean” of what is required.

“We’re facing a situation where the number of older people in New Zealand is set to double in the next ten to 15 years.

“We’re running very hard to keep pace at the moment and the population is outstripping us.”


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News category: New Zealand.

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