Charity highlights shocking abuse of older people

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More than 700 older people in the Lisburn and Castlereagh area are being abused by those closest to them, a local charity has claimed.

Speaking out on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (June 15), Action on Elder Abuse Northern Ireland said that according to academic research, “some 709 older people in Lisburn and Castlereagh are being abused by those closest to them – whether friends, families or carers. And a further unknown number suffer in some homes and hospital wards too.”

The figures highlighted by the adult safeguarding charity claim that more than 8,700 older people in Northern Ireland are victims of elder abuse. And the statistics rank Lisburn and Castlereagh seventh out of Northern Ireland’s 11 council areas in terms of the prevalence of elder abuse.

Veronica Gray, Director of Action on Elder Abuse Northern Ireland, said: “This means 709 older people [in Lisburn and Castlereagh] are likely to be feeling frightened and alone, with nobody to turn to, as they are neglected, stolen from or even subjected to physical or sexual violence in their own homes. These are our next-door neighbours.

“That this should be happening to people at this stage in their lives is nothing short of a national scandal, and yet, despite how widespread elder abuse is, this is an issue that remains in the shadows, much as child abuse did a few decades ago.”

Calling for tougher sentences for those convicted of crimes against older people, she continued: “This problem is compounded by the fact that all too often, our courts hand out very lenient sentences to those who commit these offences. If we are to halt this epidemic of elder abuse, it is about time the punishment started to fit the crime. That is why we are campaigning for sentencing guidelines that will mean our police and judicial system are forced to take crimes against older people more seriously.”

The academic research, funded by Comic Relief and the Department of Health, looked at the prevalence of the different types of elder abuse, such as physical abuse and financial crime, in communities across the UK.

Interviews were conducted as part of the extensive study into the scale of the country’s elder abuse problem, and the figures for individual areas were calculated using Office for National Statistics data on how many people aged 65+ live in each area.

For more information about the work of Action on Elder Abuse log on to www.elderabuse.org.uk

• If you are an older person who is being abused, or you think an older loved one is at risk, the charity’s dedicated freephone help line (080 8808 8141) can provide support and guidance.