Elder abuse ‘cuts across colour, class lines’, says City

Suzette Little

Elder abuse needs to be prioritised, says mayoral committee member for social development and early childhood development, Suzette Little.

Levels of domestic violence and abuse against the elderly are unacceptably high in South Africa, and the issue doesn’t enjoy priority on a very long list of social ills and injustices, she said in a statement. Today June 15 marks World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Ms Little said the awareness day was an opportunity to face the issue head-on and consider how to address them.

“Older persons, particularly women, often carry the burden of care for orphaned, young or vulnerable children. So the well-being of our older persons is significant as it has a direct impact on the lives of children and young people too,” she said.

“This abuse cuts across colour and class lines. There are various forms of elder abuse and mistreatment, including physical and emotional abuse, lack of medical care, malnutrition and financial exploitation.”

She said the abused seldom speak out for fear of further victimisation, and many don’t know where to turn.”

Ms Little said her directorate runs several programmes for seniors that focus on healthy living, active ageing, and “fostering a sense of belonging and opportunities to make friends”.

In the last two years, she said, the City had rolled out a home-based care initiative, training caregivers as part of the Expanded Public Works Programme to provide care to elderly residents who request assistance.

The City trains 400 caregivers each financial year and Ms Little hopes to bump this number up to 600 in the next financial year.

She urged communities to work with the City in helping the elders.

Our caregivers are the City’s eyes and ears, but I want communities to work with us too.

Our caregivers are also trained to identify signs of abuse and to refer such cases for further investigation. We train 400 caregivers each financial year, but we hope to employ as many as 600 in the new financial year to meet the growing demand for the service.

Support your elderly neighbour and be the person they can count on should they need it. Blow the whistle on abusive children who never visit their parents in the old-age home or who exploit their pensions.”

She said no one deserves to live their twilight years in a climate of fear or loneliness. “Our elders are the reason we are here. They have made sacrifices for our benefit and they deserve our respect. To the elderly who are being abused: there are support groups that you can contact for assistance or you can report the abuser to the South African Police Service or the City’s Public Emergency Contact Centre on 107 from a landline or 021 480 7700 from a cellphone.”

Other useful contacts Ms Little included are:

* Age-in-Action: 021 462 4249

* Action Against Elder Abuse: 021 426 5526

* Halt Elder Abuse Line: 0800 003 081

* Lifeline Southern Africa: 0861 322 322

* Woman Abuse Line: 0800 150 150

* Northern News has reported on alleged mistreatment of some of the elderly at the Sarepta Old Age Home with our most recent article (“Resident ‘underfed’ at old age home,” February 24) following news of two separate investigations being conducted into the home (“Sarepta old age home under investigation,” February 10).

Asked for an update on the investigation, the home’s Executive Welfare Council responded last month that it is still ongoing but nearing conclusion. However requests for an update into a separate investigation by the Department of Social Development have to date not received a response.