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SAHRC observes World Elderly Abuse Awareness Day

Wednesday, 15 June 2011 

As the world observes the 2011 Elderly Abuse Awareness Day on Wednesday, 15 June, the SA Human Rights Commission expresses concern about the ongoing violations of the rights of elderly people. In addition, the Commission is concerned that their contribution to the development of society is largely ignored and unappreciated, particularly their role as mentors and knowledge-carriers.

The abuse of elderly people knows no boundaries and manifests through physical; psychological; financial; sexual; physical; emotional neglect and exploitation. 

Despite this, the coming into effect of the Older Persons Act of 2006 has however brought about improvement in their conditions. It is viewed as a significant milestone in the combating of the abuse of the elderly as it provides for a number of mechanisms that can be used to protect them. The mechanisms that are provided for in the Act add to ones that are provided for in the Domestic Violence Act of 1993.  

For instance, Section 26 of the Older Persons Act states that any person who suspects that an elderly person is being abused can report such a matter to their local Department of Social Development. In cases where crimes are committed then the intervention of the nearest police station must be sought. Other cases can be reported to Chapter Nine institutions such as the Commission and the Office of the Public Protector.

Even though the Older Persons Act has brought about significant levels of protection to the rights of older people, the Commission is nonetheless concerned that incidents of fires at residential old age and children’s homes such the recent one that killed 12 elderly people at the Struisbult Care Centre in Springs, indicate that there may be poor monitoring of these facilities. This is therefore one of the major weaknesses in the implementation of the Act and needs to be addressed by government as a matter of urgency.  

The Elderly Abuse Awareness Day was launched on June 15, 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations. The purpose of this day is to provide an opportunity for the world to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons by raising awareness of the cultural, social, economic and demographic processes affecting elder abuse and neglect. In addition, the day is in support of the United Nations International Plan of Action to acknowledge the significance of elderly abuse as a public health and human rights issue.  The Commission cautions community members that elderly people have rights that must be respected by all.  Therefore, everyone has a responsibility and an obligation to ensure that their rights are protected.

For further enquiries: Vincent Moaga on 073 562 9866

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