2020 Elder Abuse Awareness Month under Pandemic’s Shadow

The UN General Assembly designated June as the month to raise awareness for Elder Abuse worldwide. According to WHO estimates, 1 in 6 people aged over 60 suffers from abuse, which means nearly 141 million people globally. And this number might be much higher as Elder Abuse is one of the most hidden and underreported violations of the law.

This year, the month has been under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of elderly people. The virus has put a focus pf interest on older persons, including distressing reports of instances of abuse and neglect of older persons in long-term care institutions. Not only older persons are at a high risk of serious illness and mortality, but they are also stigmatized through abusive language in both the conventional and social media.

Regardless of the lack of trustworthy data on the actual scale of Elder Abuse in the communities where the majority of older persons live, emerging reports reveal the high impact of the COVID-19 pandemic both in the rise of cases of abuse and in the disruption of the services and protective measures.

In March 2020, researchers announced the most elaborate estimates of elderly people’s elevated risk of serious illness and death from the coronavirus: COVID-19 kills an estimated 13.4% of patients who are +80, compared to 1.25% of those in their 50s and 0.3% of those in their 40s. The explanation for the high risk to the elderly lies in a growing understanding of “immunosenescence”. Elderly people are not as good at reacting to microorganisms they haven’t encountered before, according to researchers from the University of Arizona.

All around the world, the elderly are banned from going out, put under curfews to slow down the deaths, which peaked in March-April and claimed lives mostly among this age group. But the UN Secretary-General said that: “The Impact of COVID-19 on older persons warned that measures to restrict movement may trigger greater incidence of violence and all types of abuse – physical, emotional, financial and sexual as well as neglect”.

He also claimed that the lack of adequate legislation at the national level to protect the rights of older persons and the absence of a dedicated internationally agreed legal framework, contribute to the vulnerability of older persons and may have contributed to the inadequate responses to the COVID-19 crisis and that these gaps must be filled.

This evidence is a call for decision-makers to develop universally applicable normative standards for the protection of older people. The focus should be on engaging the community in understanding the signs of elder abuse and providing advice via radio, television, the internet, and print and social media on how victims can seek help and receive support safely.

Elder Abuse and Neglect are forms of injustice we need to tackle to better serve our communities and our elderly people. If you recognize that Elder Abuse is happening to someone you know contact us at 888-288-0091 or through our website right away so that we have time to take action and have the best chance possible of a successful resolution.