World Elder Abuse Awareness Day focuses on elderly human rights

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Pope John Paul II said: “A society will be judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members.” World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD), June 15, was launched by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations.

The purpose of WEAAD is to provide an opportunity for communities around the world to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons by raising awareness of the cultural, social, economic and demographic processes affecting elder abuse and neglect.

Elder abuse can be defined as “a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person”. Elder abuse can take various forms such as physical, psychological or emotional, sexual and financial abuse. It can also be the result of intentional or unintentional neglect.

Earlier this year Courant published a video of an elderly Bloemfontein woman Henna Scholtz (83), allegedly being abused by her son. The video soon went viral, with people sharing their sympathy with the elderly woman and disgust at the son’s behaviour. She later denied being abused, stating that the video was taken out of context.

In many parts of the world elder abuse occurs with little recognition or response. Until recently, this serious social ill was hidden from public view and considered mostly a private matter. Even today, elder abuse continues to be a taboo, mostly underestimated and ignored by societies across the world. Evidence is accumulating, however, to indicate that elder abuse is an important public health and societal problem.

The 2017 theme is “Understand & End Financial Abuse of Older People: A Human Rights Issue”

The 2017 WEAAD theme will explore effective means of strengthening protections against financial and material exploitation, including by improving the understanding of this form of elder abuse and discussing ways of ensuring the participation of older adults themselves in ending victimisation. It will further serve to inform the thematic discussions of the upcoming eighth session of the General Assembly’s Open-ended Working Group on Ageing, which will take place in New York from 5 to 7 July 2017.

Seithati Semenokane / Courant News