Elder abuse is a very real, often hidden issue facing many communities.
On Friday Launceston’s first walk against elder abuse will take place in conjunction with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
An initiative of the United Nations, the day aims to focus attention on the problem of physical, emotional, and financial abuse of elders.
Council on the Ageing Tasmania acting chief executive Deb Lewis said it was difficult to predict cases of elder abuse in Tasmania.
Ms Lewis said many elder abuse victims were often too afraid to speak up, over concerns of what might happen to the perpetrator – who is often a family member.
“It’s generally acknowledged that about 5 per cent of the community suffers from some form of elder abuse,” she said.
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“So in Tasmania, that represents about 5000 people, with about two thirds being women.”
Elder abuse is any form of mistreatment of an older person.
Abuse can be financial, psychological, physical or sexual in nature and often involves neglect.
Mr Lewis said most cases of abuse involved a combination of financial or psychological abuse perpetrated by a person in a position of trust – often an adult child.
Friday’s walk will start at City Park at 10am and finish at Town Hall, with participants encouraged to step forward and make their presence felt.
For the past few weeks Town Hall has been illuminated in purple lights – the colour of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
Launceston mayor Albert van Zetten, who will lead the event, said elder abuse was something that shouldn’t remain hidden.
“This is an important issue and it is good to be raising awareness for it,” he said.
“Abuse of any kind is just not acceptable.
“A lot of elderly people experience abuse particularly, but many won’t say anything.
“I think it is something that does get hidden in the community.
“Pressures that come into a family, often financial, can lead to issues down the track that leads to abuse – even if people aren’t aware of it.
“In our community we should be encouraging respect of people of all ages, but especially the elderly.”
In February the Australian Attorney General announced that the Council of Australian Governments would develop a national plan to combat elder abuse.
A draft of the plan is expected by the end of the year.
In Tasmania, COTA have partnered with Legal Aid to provide free legal advice to community members with elder abuse concerns.
This advice is available at monthly legal aid sessions at COTA, or through direct contact with Legal Aid.
COTA Tasmania urges anybody suffering from or aware of elder abuse to call the elder abuse hotline on 1800 441 169