It's time to listen and really hear the experience of older victims of abuse.

“I was politely listened to because I am an older person, but I was politely dismissed because I am an older person”. 

Every day we are bombarded with ageist attitudes; media accounts that tell us an aging society is burdening our health service, people living longer is creating a home care ‘time bomb’, there is a pension deficit, and so it goes on.  All of these messages peddle a very negative stereotype of aging and the idea that ‘we can’t afford older people’.  Yet even more worrying is the subtle underlying message that older people are not deserving, they drain society without making any valuable contribution, they shouldn’t expect to be looked after and cared for, and they are not entitled to dignity and our respect. 

When society views older people as a drain, when the voice of lived experience is politely ignored, and when older people hold no value or respect, surely our work in raising awareness and preventing elder abuse is made more difficult.  Too many people are still, in 2018, incredulous when the topic of elder abuse is raised.  Daily we encounter people who see or hear messages of elder abuse and chose to politely ignore them, believing it doesn’t happen to older people.  Of even more concern is the many people in public or professional life who see the signs of elder abuse and do nothing to help the individual because they cannot possibly fathom abuse as a possibility?

So what impact does this have on older people as victims of abuse?  How much more difficult is it for a victim of elder abuse to disclose their experience and seek help when it is against the backdrop of negativity and a message that they don’t matter, or worse, that their experience isn’t real.  That is the bigger challenge to every one of us.  As professionals it is our job to work to overcome this mind-set, and with increasing awareness and more hard work, we have to remain hopeful and confident that much needed attitudinal change will come.

November 2018