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Abuse of elderly set to rise in SA

June 15 2013 at 04:29pm

By Staff Reporter

Today is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, a UN-designated day which aims to drawn attention to the various challenges and abuses faced by the world’s senior citizens.

CJ van Zyl, chief executive of city-based Fulami, an organisation focusing on improving the well-being of elderly person, says elder abuse is emerging as an important issue within the elderly community.

“With South Africa’s rapidly ageing population it is estimated that by 2031 the population aged 65 years and over will nearly double, which means that this problem will become even bigger in future.

“We need to say no to elder abuse and address this problem urgently. Older people have the right to live without fear and abuse,” said Van Zyl.

Elder abuse can take several forms including financial, physical, psychological, social, sexual and neglect and is, in many circumstances, an unspoken of or under- reported crime.

Van Zyl said there were many ways to take a stand against elder abuse, including learning about the forms and signs of elder abuse and neglect, such as frequent arguments or tension between the caregiver and the elderly person and changes in personality, providing a break for a caregiver, and volunteering to be a visitor at a retirement village or old-age home.

“Many of these actions do not take a huge amount of time and effort, but can make a huge difference in the life of an elderly person,” said Van Zyl.

Major Collette Leitch of the Salvation Army’s Emmarentia Eventide Home also called on the community to get more involved.

Coping with fast-changing technology was one of the biggest challenges faced by older people, she said, explaining that older people found the world of automated cash machines and internet transactions to be very impersonal and missed the human contact they used to have in dealing with their financial affairs.

“It’s not always easy to look after older people. As they become frail, their caregivers get upset with them for wetting their beds, for example. Looking after a frail older person is often full-time work,” she said.

Leitch added that another form of abuse was to be degraded, humiliated, insulted and ridiculed.

She said a starting point could be for schools to get more involved with older people.

“Another idea is for senior citizen days at shops and malls, for example.”

According to the UN, the world is currently undergoing significant demographic changes. By 2050, the global population of people above the age of 60 will exceed the number of younger people.

The Salvation Army also runs different programmes that assist the elderly with feeding, support and activities that aid the elderly to connect with other members in the community.

For more information on Fulami visit www.fulami.org or contact 082 432 5269 to volunteer. - Pretoria News