Is this how we repay them?

post by Haaku Fuakau Fakahelehele

“To care for those who once cared for us is one of the highest honors.” (Walker & Speers (2013).

Older adults (aged 60 +) are highly respected and loved in Pacific Island communities, so it is difficult as a Pacific Islander to hear different scenarios where older people are taken advantage of and abused. Recent headlines state: “Caregiver pleads guilty to ill-treatment after unwittingly recording abuse” (Wairarapa Times Age, 2018) and “Elderly Aussie woman loses home to Westpac after tricked into signing loan” (Chung, 2018). This is distressing from my own cultural point of view and it is discouraging to see that the older generation are becoming victims to physical, psychological, emotional and financial abuse. Is this how we repay their hard work that has helped to shape our country? If it is, I want no part of it. Elder abuse has been defined by the World Health Organisation Toronto Declaration on the Global Prevention of Elder Abuse (2002) as

“… a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person”.  (Age Concern, 2018).

A lot of older people do not want to report the abuse that may be occurring due to embarrassment. This could be because a member of their own family is mistreating them, or is someone they know, they are related to, or who is meant to be caring for them.

Abuse could happen for several reasons. It could be due to a change in relationship. For example, a usually independent parent could become more reliant on the child to assist them due to their deteriorating health condition as an older person. The caregiver may harbour some resentment towards the older parent and this could result in an elder being abused or neglected. This highlights two victims, the older person being cared for and the caregiver. Age concern, state in their handbook “Caring for the carer is one of the primary steps towards preventing abuse.” (Age Concern NZ Incorporated, 2005, p.13).  Sometimes, the caregiver may not even be aware that they are suffering from stress themselves. They could also be fearful that if they admit stress then it means that they have failed to provide care and could result in the elderly person could be removed from their care.

If we can educate the community that older adults need to be cared for in a respectful way, then this will assist in the future for when the numbers of older adults rise significantly. I know for myself that when I turn 60 that I would still like to be treated respectfully and as a contributing part of the community. Here are 10 TIPS to promote respect and prevent abuse towards elders.


Age Concern. (n.d). Age concern: Public/Elder Abuse and Neglect.

Bibbings, A. (1995). ‘Carers and professionals –  the carer’s viewpoint’, in A. Leathard, (ed). Going Interprofessional: Working together for Health and Social Welfare. New York: Routledge.

Chung, F. (21 May 2018)., Retrieved from

Speers, P., and Walker, T. (2013). The Inspired caregiver: Finding joy while caring for those you love. Published by CreateSpace Independent, 2013.

10 tips to promote respect and prevent abuse. World elder Abuse awareness day (n.d).

Wairarapa Times Age,(5 Feb 2018). Retrieved from:


Author: socialworknz

I'm a social work researcher in Aotearoa New Zealand

One thought on “Is this how we repay them?”

  1. Thanks for writing about this important issue…elder abuse is often something that goes unseen and unnoticed. It’s really helpful to look at the way we treat elderly from a different cultural perspective too! Great point about supporting those who look after elders so that they don’t get burnt out.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create your website with
Get started
%d bloggers like this: