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Thursday 21 November 2019
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Tobago

Stop abusing elderly

Health Secretary says social workers will intervene

Health Secretary Dr Agatha Carrington   -
Health Secretary Dr Agatha Carrington -

Dr Agatha Carrington, Secretary, Division of Health, Wellness and Family Development has called for the elimination of elderly abuse in the society.

Carrington issued the challenge on Thursday as she addressed an elderly symposium at the Magdalena Grand Beach & Golf Resort, Lowlands, Tobago.

The symposium, which addressed ageing, elder abuse and the rights of the elderly, was hosted by the Division of Health, Wellness and Family Development in collaboration with the International Federation of Associations of the Elderly and Tobago Association of the Elderly (TATE).

Referring to a 2017 study, Carrington noted 15 per cent of people in low and middle-income countries over the age of 60, have been subjected to abuse.

However, she told a gathering of stakeholders that percentage could be inaccurate as many cases of abuse are unreported.

Carrington said the number of cases of elderly abuse is increasing globally because there is a corresponding increase in the ageing population.

"Ladies and gentlemen, delegates at this symposium, as this number continues to increase so too will the number of persons likely to be abused as well. Yet this problem remains under-reported."

She said statistics have also revealed 90 per cent of abusers are family members.

"This is a very common situation and it may even be occurring in nursing homes or hospitals....Sadly, only four per cent of elder abuse is reported."

Carrington said this is so because the elderly may either be mentally incapable of reporting what is happening, afraid or embarrassed.

"This problem can and may have tremendous impact on the health system given that we provide appropriate care in the case of injuries."

She said according to the United Nations, the global population over the age of 60 in low and middle-income countries, will more than double by the year 2050.

Further, she said the World Health Organisation has noted one in six elderly people has been subjected to abuse.

Carrington said elderly citizens in Tobago are not immune from abuse.

"Of an island of over 8,000 elderly persons, more than 12 per cent of our population, we note that this continues to occur."

However, she said the division has been playing its part to reduce abuse through its association with TATE and other international organisations.

"This issue requires a multi-dimensional response if we are to protect the rights of the older person."

Carrington said social workers have already been assigned to communities to "identify and where possible, intervene so that these incidents will not be overlooked."

She acknowledged, however, detecting situations of financial abuse or exploitation could be challenging because elderly people depend on others.

"But the magnitude of this situation will not be ignored."

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