13 June 2014

Black and white photo of an older man With Australia’s population ageing rapidly, a University of South Australia researcher is warning the number of elder abuse cases will also increase.

Ahead of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15, Adjunct Associate Professor Dale Bagshaw is calling for more preventative measures to be put in place, such as elder mediation, to protect our elderly citizens.

An expert in mediation, Assoc Prof Bagshaw says elderly citizens are vulnerable to a number of types of abuse, ranging from psychological to physical, but it is financial abuse that is the most often reported in Australia.  

“Older Australians from all walks of life are in danger of unintentional or intentional financial exploitation or abuse, often by a family member,” she says.

“While it often happens behind closed doors, as a society we need to recognise that financial abuse of older people is a significant social problem likely to intensify as Australia’s ageing population continues to grow exponentially over the next 20 years.

“As part of a large-scale research project, we surveyed a number of service providers, older people and their families in Australia and what we uncovered were some very sad stories. There are cases where adult children are refusing to visit their elderly parent unless they are given money or assets.

“Financial abuse ranged from not paying back small loans to bullying older people into selling their home.    We also know that forms of abuse are often interconnected and that older people might be subjected to several different kinds of abuse at the same time.”

Assoc Prof Bagshaw will travel to Canada next week to present at the 7th World Summit on Mediation with Age Related Issues in Nova Scotia. She says mediation can be a viable option for both the prevention and early intervention of elder abuse.

“Mediation has proven to be a successful strategy to address elder abuse. It provides an opportunity for family members and significant others to get to together to make plans or to have difficult conversations facilitated by an impartial third party,” Assoc Prof Bagshaw says.

“The mediator can ensure everyone’s needs are met and the interests, rights and safety of the older person are taken into account in decision-making.

“An older-person-centred mediation approach puts the safety of our older citizens first and makes sure their rights are upheld, especially when their capacity to do so themselves might be impaired for any number of reasons.”

Assoc Prof Bagshaw, who led the research team that developed the South Australian government’s 'Our Actions for the Prevention of Abuse of Older South Australians' plan, has recently played an integral role in the launch of Elder Mediation Australasian Network. The Australian-wide network connects professionals committed to raising awareness of elder mediation and developing professional ethics, standards and certification for elder mediators.

For more information, go to http://elder-mediation.com.au/

Contact for interview

Dale Bagshaw mobile +61 408 805 641 Skype address dale.bagshaw email dale.bagshaw@unisa.edu.au

Media Contact

Rosanna Galvin office (08) 8302 0578 mobile 0434 603 457 email rosanna.galvin@unisa.edu.au

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