Case referrals in Central Otago reveal 46.4% of elder abuse is caused by the victim’s own adult children.

Of the 27 elder abuse cases reported to Age Concern over the past 12 months, 48.6% were psychological-related, 30.5% financial and 4.8% physical.

Age Concern defines elder abuse as or an act omission which causes harm or distress to an older person who is in a relationship of trust

Age Concern elder abuse response service provider Toni Velenski, who previously worked in the police, said elder abuse was rarely reported.

“I can count on one hand how many elderly victims were reported during my time in the police,” Ms Velenski said.

Some of the barriers included lack of awareness about what appropriate elderly support looked like.

“Sometimes they [older adults] don’t know they’re victims of abuse,” she said.

An Office for Seniors Elder Abuse and Neglect in New Zealand report said abuse ranges from psychological, financial, physical, sexual, institutional and neglect.

Abuse can appear harmless, such as taking $20 from a parent’s wallet for personal groceries without asking, to borrowing $40,000 for a house deposit and not paying it back.

In the report, “inheritance impatience” was identified as a factor behind financial abuse.

On June 15, 11 projects were assigned Government funding in an effort towards prevention.

Minister for Seniors Dr Ayesha Verrall said the Elder Abuse Prevention Fund assists programmes supporting diverse groups across the older population.

“Sadly one in 10 people experience elder abuse in New Zealand, that is simply unacceptable,” Dr Verrall said.

“We need to find different ways to prevent abuse, this extra funding allows us to trial innovative approaches.”

The Fund was allocated $250,000 to be granted across the 11 projects.

This is in addition to the $6.3million announced in Budget 2022 towards new prevention initiatives.

University of Otago’s associate professor Yoram Barak’s research project BMC Geriatrics is one of the 11 to receive Elder Abuse Prevention funding.

The research analysed seven years of data from the Southern District Health Board using the International Resident Assessment Instrument (interRAI-CH) assessment tool to identify elder abuse.

It revealed through altering the criteria within the assessments, identification of at-risk individuals could double from 2.6% to 4.8%.

Prof Barak said elder abuse remained largely undetected and so was at least equally largely underreported.

“Existing elder abuse assessment tools are not up to par and efforts to improve them are crucial,” Prof Barak said.

Age Concern has started a drop-in centre at the Wanaka Community Hub. The drop-in centre is open from 1-4pm, every Friday (from July 1) fortnightly.