Council of the Aging (COTA) has called elder abuse an epidemic in Australia.
They suggest rates of abuse could be as high as 10% of older Australians.
Let that figure sink in for a minute.
Here at the Australian Christian Lobby we applaud any program willing to protect and educate the elderly and the wider community on this important topic.
In my local state of Tasmania a joint initiative by COTA and Legal Aid begun last year offering monthly free legal appointments to help older Tasmanians avoid the pitfalls of elder abuse.
The service is an excellent complement to the Tasmanian Elder Abuse Hotline which was started in 2012 and fields around 30 calls a month.
We know that over 80% of elder abuse in Australia is perpetrated by an immediate family member, usually an adult daughter or son. Many older people feel pressured by family members to pay money and hand over assets often in a way that is hidden and difficult for victims to stop.
This is known as ‘Inheritance impatience’ and is one of the leading causes of elder abuse in Australia.
Although these services are welcome others are calling for more drastic action.
The Coroner in a Tasmanian elder abuse case involving an elderly Tasmanian woman who tragically died of hypothermia while being kept in a shipping container by her daughter and partner, has recently recommended more broad ranging changes.
These include the potential of legislative reform which could lead to increased penalties for perpetrators. He also suggested that an independent investigatory body should be appointed focused specifically on elder abuse.
COTA is calling for a dedicated state Minister for Aging for Tasmania.
Again, we would applaud such moves especially given our aging population is likely to see one in four Tasmanians over 65 years of age by the year 2030.
Yet the truth is the root of this issue is not being addressed by such interventions. The core of the elder abuse problem is the human heart, a self-centeredness that is the antithesis of Christ.
As Christians we are called to reflect God’s love to all people irrespective of their usefulness or capacity. It is no wonder then that so many of the aged care facilities have Christian roots.
As Christians we must continue to challenge societies anti-respect-for-life agenda and lead by example in being ‘salt and light’ in how we treat our elderly family members and senior citizens in general. With up to 40% of our elderly in nursing homes never receiving a visit – not even at Christmas, the contrast should be stark.
What a sad reflection on society when those deserving of respect and care are instead taken advantage of in their vulnerability.
This is one of the many reasons why ACL has grave concerns about legalising euthanasia and/or assisted suicide. Coercion and manipulation can never be adequately assessed no matter how rigorous the safeguards are purported to be.