Elder abuse is rife in the South Asian community in New Zealand, almost doubling in the past year, according to an Auckland charity caring for senior citizens.
“And this is just reported cases,” says Nilima Venkat, general manager of Shanti Niwas Charitable Trust, which has been operating for the past 25 years.
“Over the years, we at Shanti Niwas have been seeing a steady increase in elder abuse cases in the South Asian community.
“The past 12 months has seen a 90 per cent increase over the previous year in elder abuse cases,” said Venkat, who believes there are many more cases in the community which go unreported and unnoticed.
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Venkat said in previous years, the number of cases averaged around 45-50, but that jumped to 90 for the past 12 months, with almost 80 per cent of the cases being Fiji Indians.
“And nearly 25 per cent of the perpetrators of abuse either are addicted to or under the influence of drug/alcohol, resulting in abuse of the senior.”
Most of the cases involved physical, emotional and verbal abuse of elders by their adult children, adult grandchildren, daughters-in-law and other relatives.
Venkat said the majority of the cases appeared to have been fuelled by pressures during Covid lockdowns and drug and alcohol abuse.
The trust ran an Elder Abuse Awareness campaign last week in an effort to highlight issue in the community, culminating in a special programme attended by dignitaries at Shanti Niwas premises in Onehunga.
Venkat told Radio Tarana it was important for people to know so they could help seniors who needed help. Throughout the week, Tarana featured senior citizens on its programmes talking about issues.
“This whole week we have been running a campaign to raise awareness about this important issue in the community; because of the stigma a lot of people don’t want to know about it.”
Venkat said Shanti Niwas provided culturally appropriate services for senior citizens of Indian and South Asian origin, and had various programmes and services for them.
“We deal a lot with senior citizens who have been abused and we want to bring about positive changes in their lives, and we provide culturally appropriate support there as well.
“Anyone who wants help can call us on (09)622-1010.”
Venkat said elder abuse was an insidious and growing issue in New Zealand, with at least one in 10 people over the age of 65 experiencing some form of elder abuse.
New Zealand-wide statistics provided from Age Concern – from July 1998 to June 2008 – show one in 10 elders are abused, with 65-70 per cent of those abused being women, 40-46 per cent of clients live alone, 70-80 per cent of abuse is committed by family members, 52-55 per cent of abusers are male, 40-50 per cent of abusers are adult children, and up to 35 per cent of abuse is committed by the primary caregiver.
Venkat said the above statistics were similar for the South Asian community in New Zealand as well.