Highlighting the growing problem of elder abuse, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called for better strategies and stronger laws to protect the rights and dignity of older persons worldwide.
“Respect for elders is an integral part of many societies. As people live longer, and as we strive for sustainable and inclusive development, it is time to revive and expand our appreciation for those who have advanced in years,” stated Mr. Ban in his message for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, a new observance that will be marked annually on 15 June.
“A modern civilization can only live up to that name if it preserves the tradition of honouring, respecting and protecting society’s elders,” he added.
According to the UN World Health Organization (WHO), elder abuse is a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person.
This type of violence constitutes a violation of human rights and includes physical, sexual, psychological, emotional; financial and material abuse; abandonment; neglect; and serious loss of dignity and respect.
WHO estimates that between four and six per cent of older persons worldwide have suffered from some form of elder abuse. Emerging research also suggests that abuse, neglect and violence against older persons, both at home and in institutions, are much more prevalent than currently acknowledged.
“Such abuse is an unacceptable attack on human dignity and human rights,” noted Mr. Ban. “Making matters even worse, cases often remain unreported and unaddressed.”
It was in response to this widening problem that the General Assembly proclaimed the Day in December last year.
“As we commemorate the Day for the first time, let us all join in reaffirming that the human rights of older persons are as absolute as those of all human beings,” said the Secretary-General.
He added, “I call upon Governments and all concerned actors to design and carry out more effective prevention strategies and stronger laws and policies to address all aspects of elder abuse. Let us work together to optimize living conditions for older persons and enable them to make the greatest possible contribution to our world.”