With an increasing proportion of Maroondah residents aged 60 and over, elder abuse is an important community issue.
This week, Council is launching a digital awareness campaign to highlight the warning signs of elder abuse and to encourage family members, neighbours, friends and carers to help reduce an older person’s risk of abuse. The campaign coincides with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on Monday 15 June.
Each day for three days, a message on elder abuse will be posted on Council’s social media platforms, along with links to various support services on where people can get help.
Elder abuse can be unintentional or deliberate. The harm caused to an older person may range from unintended effects of poor care through to serious physical injury inflicted deliberately. Harm can also include emotional harm and financial loss, including the loss of a home and belongings.
According to the World Health Organisation, ageist stereotypes in which older adults are depicted as frail, weak and dependent, is a contributing risk factor of elder abuse.
Councillor Rob Steane, Chair of the Maroondah Community Safety Committee, said discrimination based on age has no place in our society.
Cr Steane said it is important that older people feel valued and respected in our community.
“As a community we must challenge some of the harmful beliefs and attitudes that can lead to discrimination on the basis of age. If we continue to think that older people are inevitably dependent, frail, precarious and excluded, we will contribute to elder abuse, rather than addressing it,” he said.
The OPERA Project: Older People, Equity Respect and Ageing
The OPERA Project: Older People, Equity Respect and Ageing is one of Australia’s first investigations of ageism as a driver of elder abuse.
The project is a collaboration between the Eastern Community Legal Centre (ECLC) and Swinburne University and shows how older people living in Melbourne’s eastern region are defying ageist stereotypes.
The project uses digital storytelling to disrupt ageism by celebrating older people’s diverse stories and experiences, including planning for older age, increasing social connection and keeping active and healthy.
Leading project researcher, Senior lecturer in Media and Communication at Swinburne Dr Diana Bossio, said that by consulting directly with older people, researchers gained a much deeper understanding of how ageism plays out in day-to-day experiences of older people.
Dr Bossio said what was discovered during filming is that older people want to challenge ageism and age discrimination.
“We were really surprised to find that when it came to older people in the community wanting to talk about experiences of ageism and how they might be a driver for elder abuse, they were quite ambivalent about ageism, and that’s not the messaging that they wanted to get out to the community,” Dr Bossio said.
“We assumed older people would want to talk about the awful experiences with ageism and age discrimination, but actually the opposite was true.
“The overwhelming message we received was that ageing has just as many positives as it does negative. From speaking with participants we found that they have great, busy, wonderful lives, and are making great contributions. And while older people face a lot of transitions – such as retirement, losing partners, chronic illness or disability, these are transitions just like any other transition you would make in your life,” she said.
“We realised very quickly when filming the videos that even though the brief was to talk about ageism, it wasn’t that at all. Instead these videos became about the brilliant, amazing lives that older people have. Participants had different takes on getting older, but the one thing that united all of them was that getting older is just a series of transitions, and that it doesn’t have to be this thing that you fear. You can plan for a great older life and you can still do some of the things, or all of the things, that you hope and that you dream of.
“I think that’s the answer to the question: What can we do about ageism in the community? The first thing we can do is confront our own internalised ageism and our own fear of ageing,” Dr Bossio said.
To view stories from the OPERA Project, visit the OPERA Project website