Responding to Elder Abuse in Rural and Remote Communities
The vast majority of elder abuse is perpetrated by family members, though it is not often recognised as a form of family and domestic violence and has received much less attention. The World Health Organization (2017) has estimated that elder abuse may affect up to 15.7% of community dwelling people aged 60 years and over. While the needs of specific groups of older people identified at being at increased risk of elder abuse have been examined, such as people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander older people, few studies have looked at the rural and remote context. Limited service access in rural and remote areas has been identified as impacting on health and wellbeing in Australia generally, with people in rural and remote areas experiencing reduced health outcomes and higher death rates than their metropolitan peers. Older people living in rural and remote areas may be particularly vulnerable to elder abuse due to social and geographic isolation and difficulties accessing support and legal services. Social isolation is a known risk factor for elder abuse, and older people living in small communities or on rural farms may lack social support networks, placing them at increased risk. However, positive aspects of living in small communities have also been noted, such as increased social connectedness and greater responsibility to look after neighbours.
This paper will report on the findings of a scoping review commissioned by the Older People’s Advocacy Network (OPAN), which explored national and international research and literature around social policy, prevention and service responses to elder abuse in rural and remote communities. It will provide information and recommendations about how the Australian elder abuse and family and domestic violence sectors can work together to better respond to elder abuse in rural and remote communities.
World Health Organization. (2017). Elder abuse: what is elder abuse? Accessed 19 October 2017. Retrieved from: http://www.who.int/ageing/projects/elder_abuse/en/
Amy Warren is a Research Assistant in the School of Occupational Therapy, Social Work and Speech Pathology at Curtin University. She has been involved in a number of research projects across the elder abuse and family and domestic violence sectors over the last couple of years. Amy’s honours research examined older women’s experiences of help-seeking in relation to elder abuse.