The importance of social connections to reduce the risk of elder abuse
For immediate release
Elder Rights Advocacy emphasises the importance of social connections to reduce the risk of elder abuse.
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) 15 June
Elder Rights Advocacy (ERA), an organisation which provides information and advocacy support to older people, their families, and representatives in Victoria, is highlighting the instrumental role social connections play in assisting to minimise the risk of elder abuse in the lead-up to World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (15 June).
According to Debra Nicholl, CEO of Elder Rights Advocacy, the connection and conversation provided by Elder Rights Advocacy volunteers through the current Community Visitors Scheme (CVS) is an invaluable opportunity for older Victorians to open up and potentially share concerns around situations that may be elder abuse.
‘The CVS has been a vital platform that nurtures trust and friendship, which can be a clear foundation in minimising elder abuse risk.’
From 1 July 2023, CVS will transition into the Aged Care Volunteer Visitors Scheme, expanding services and support state-wide to older people living in residential aged care homes or their own homes.
Research has shown that social isolation is a significant risk factor for elder abuse. The CVS program, which matches volunteers with older people receiving government-subsidised aged care services, aims to reduce social isolation by providing regular visits and companionship.
The Australian Law Reform Commission’s (ALRC) report on elder abuse found that social isolation was a significant risk factor for elder abuse. The report notes that older adults who are socially isolated may be more vulnerable to abuse and neglect because they lack the support and resources that come with social connections.
In Victoria alone, the CVS has supported thousands of older people since its inception in 1992. These visits have been shown to reduce loneliness and depression, improve overall wellbeing, and foster a sense of purpose and connection to the community.
Debra Nicholl added, ‘The CVS program has a proven track record in building social connections and reducing social isolation, which is a key factor in preventing elder abuse. In addition, the regular visits and conversations between volunteers and older people create a sense of trust and safety that can encourage open communication and sharing concerns.’
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has identified social isolation as a risk factor for elder abuse and recommends increasing social connections to prevent abuse.In addition, the WHO suggests that interventions to reduce social isolation, such as community-based programs and caregiver support interventions, can help prevent elder abuse.
‘The CVS provides friendship and so much more for older people. While we all know the importance of good friendships in our lives, for an older person who is isolated or alone, it offers something to look forward to, a marker in their week, a feeling of being valued and respected, being part of a community, a person to talk things over with, share stories, histories, passions, hopes and dreams. It strengthens their sense of identity and gives them confidence and reassurance.
‘Elder abuse is everyone’s business, so we need to step up and be aware of the potential signals that an older person may be experiencing abuse, not only on WEAAD but every day. That means spending time with older people and creating connections to have a greater chance for a more trustful and open relationship. The Aged Care Volunteers Visitors Scheme does exactly that.’ Ms Nicholl adds.
About Elder Rights Advocacy
Established in 1991, Elder Rights Advocacy (ERA) provides information and advocacy support to older people, their families and representatives in Victoria to address issues related to Commonwealth-funded aged care services. ERA’s service is free, independent and confidential. From 1 July 2023, ERA will expand its CVS/Aged Care Volunteer Visitors Scheme to cover all areas of Victoria.
Older people have a right to receive safe, quality aged care, have their voices heard and be treated with respect.
Elder Rights Advocacy is the Victorian founding member of the National Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN), delivering the National Aged Care Advocacy Program (NACAP).
For any Elder Rights Advocacy enquiries, please call 1800 700 600