What is Elder Abuse?
Elder abuse is the infliction of physical, emotional, psychological, sexual, and/or financial harm on an older adult. Elder abuse can also take the form of intentional or unintentional neglect of an older adult by his or her caregiver.
Abuse comes in many forms and variations, but in any form, it generates potentially dangerous situations and feelings of worthlessness, as well as isolates the elder from people who can help.
An Aging Population
The United Nations defines a country as “aging” when 10% or more of its population is over the age of 60 years. The Central Statistical Office in Trinidad and Tobago revealed in 2002 that 10% of the population was over the age of sixty.
This makes Trinidad and Tobago a country with an “aging population.” As of 2010, the elderly population of Trinidad and Tobago represents 12% (or 156,000 people, according to the Central Statistical Office). The Caribbean Conference on Aging estimated that that this group will double in size by 2050 to 24%, and the UN World Population Prospects (2008) projects even higher numbers. According to the UNWPP of 2008, the percentage of seniors on Trinidad and Tobago will increase to 17.7% by 2025 and by 2050, growth is expected to reach 30.1% of the entire population of Trinidad and Tobago.
As births go down and the percentage of seniors goes up, the risk of abuse also increases, as there are more senior citizens and fewer younger people able and willing to care for them. And while certain organizations, such as the Ministry of Community Development’s Geriatric Adolescent Partnership Programme (GAPP), are actively promoting the training of certified, qualified caregivers, the demand for trained caregivers exceeds the labour pool. The strain will only get worse as the aging population increases. NGOs that are struggling to meet the needs of the most vulnerable segments of our population will be spread even thinner.
If we can’t take care of our elders now, what are our children going to do with us when WE are elders?
There is No Age Limit on Abuse
When people think of a victim of domestic violence or abuse, the image that usually comes to mind is of a fearful woman being dominated by her larger and stronger husband. But domestic violence is any violence between family members, whether blood relatives, parents and children, lovers, in-laws, or caretakers. That means that whether a victim is five, twenty-five, or eighty-five, they all fall under the umbrella of abuse, and all need our help and support.
A Silent Epidemic
According to the 2016 Crime and Violence in Trinidad and Tobago Report, 20% of all reported cases of domestic abuse happen to men and women over the age of fifty. The number of actual cases is likely to be 6.3 times higher than official criminal data, according to United Nations Human Development’s 2012 survey on domestic violence. In general, people over fifty are at greater risk than the general population for abuse, but are less likely to report it, and elderly females are twice as likely to be abused, though abuse is by no means just a “women’s problem.”