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Elder abuse is a crime

Written by Allison Cooper

A busing the elderly is not only wrong, it is a punishable offence in terms of the Older Persons Act (2006).

As South Africa highlights the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children from 25 November to 10 December, the elderly population should also not be forgotten.

According to Femada Shamam, the CEO of Tafta, elder abuse refers to a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, which causes harm or distress to an older person, in any relationship where there is an expectation of trust.

A registered non-profit organisation, Tafta has specialised in the care of elders in eThekwini, KwaZulu-Natal, for six decades, offering various services to support elders to live a life of dignity, growth and meaning. Its services include prevention programmes, early intervention and continuous care.

Types of elder abuse

There are various forms of elder abuse, namely:

Physical: An act that results in injury or death, through the use of any physical means such as hitting, shaking, pushing, rough handling, cutting and slapping.

Financial: The illegal or improper use of an older person’s property or finances.

Sexual: An act that results in the exploitation of an older person for sexual or erotic gratification without knowledge, understanding and consent.

Psychological, emotional or verbal abuse: A pattern of degrading or humiliating conduct that results in impaired psychology and/or emotional functioning. These types of abuse may be intimidation, victimisation and a violation of human rights.

Protect our elders

“Elder Abuse takes many forms and at times may even be unintended or due to frustration that results from caregiver stress. This stress could be rooted in many of the informal family caregivers not knowing how to care for and support the elder and the stress of trying to balance the care of their loved one with other responsibilities,” explains Shamam.

She says there’s a belief held by various cultural groupings and communities that the aged are ‘abandoned’ in old age homes. “Organisations like Tafta provide elders with a place of safety and offer them an opportunity to find peace and solace in their sunset years, after years of abuse or disrespect. In some cases, an elder’s support system can’t manage the complexity of care required and intervention is needed.”

Community members can support elders by ensuring that they are not isolated. Have a friendly chat with them so that they know they are not alone.

Tafta’s social workers can intervene in difficult situations. For assistance, email intake@tafta.org.za, call 031 332 3721 or visit www.tafta.org.za.