Listen: NSW Ageing and Disability Commissioner Robert Fitzgerald tells Ben McEachen how to recognise elder abuse
About 15 per cent of people aged over 65, who live in the community, experience some form of elder abuse in Australia.
Only 40 per cent of those who are abused, though, seek help or report the abuse.
During NSW Seniors Week 2022, NSW Ageing and Disability Commissioner Robert Fitzgerald spoke with Hope Afternoons about the disturbing social problem of elder abuse.
Previously, Fitzgerald was Commissioner on the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. He wants us all to recognise what elder abuse is and seek to thwart it.
“Elder abuse is anything that causes harm to an older person over the age of 65, or over the age of 50 if you are Indigenous,” Fitzgerald said.
“Abuse can be psychological abuse, where somebody is taking control over the decision making of an older person; that’s the most common.”
“Abuse can be psychological abuse, where somebody is taking control over the decision making of an older person; that’s the most common,” – NSW Ageing and Disability Commissioner Robert Fitzgerald
Other forms of elder abuse include financial, physical (restraint; violence; neglect) and sexual.
Fitzgerald told Hope Afternoons about the challenges of confronting elder abuse in different cultural and socio-economic contexts.
A significant factor in the under-reporting of elder abuse is many older people feel “invisible” and “voiceless”.
“We are in the business of empowering older people,” Fitzgerald said about the NSW Ageing and Disability Commission.
“We are in the business of empowering older people,” – NSW Ageing and Disability Commissioner Robert Fitzgerald
“That’s the business of everybody.
“When we see that somebody else is starting to take control against the will of a person, in relation to their finances or making appointments or whatever it might be… they are tell-tale signs.
“If you have got a concern, if you think something is not right… it is imperative to raise it.
“[You should raise it] either with a service provider they are engaged with, or with the Ageing and Disability Abuse helpline on 1800 628 221.
“Abuse never gets better. So if you or do not intervene, at least just to raise the issue, then it gets much worse.”
He also applauded the Blacktown City Elder Abuse Prevention Collaborative – and others like it – for taking a communal and coordinated approach to tackling elder abuse.
Listen to the full interview with Robert Fitzgerald in the player above.