Older people say that they are being subjected to abuse and discrimination because of their age, according to a report by the Global Alliance for the Rights of Older People (GAROP).

Today, (15 June) Age Demands Action campaigners in 40 countries, will bring attention to elder abuse and the importance of a new UN convention on the rights of older people and follow up with their governments to attend the Open-ended Working Group on Ageing in July.

“Older people repeatedly say that they are considered useless, incompetent and a drain on resources by their families and by society, as well as being subjected to abuse,” said Bridget Sleap, Senior Rights Policy Adviser at HelpAge International.

“Not enough is being done to stop this abuse and protect the rights of older people,” said Sleap, who wrote the GAROP report on behalf of the alliance.

The report by GAROP entitled ‘In Our Own Words’ is based on consultations with older people across 50 countries who were asked how they feel they are discriminated against in older age.

The report revealed elder abuse occurs in different settings. A resident from a nursing home in Serbia said, “In the home they terrorise us, they take all our money, they don’t give us allowances and they constantly threaten we’ll be kicked out if we don’t behave.”[1]

HelpAge International works to challenge discrimination and violence against older people. Much of this work is done in East Africa where there are a significant number of cases of elder abuse.

Nzingo, 67, from Kenya has suffered from elder abuse at the hands of a relative, which also resulted in the death of her 90-year-old mother.

The man slashed me on my head and I immediately fainted. I used the money I had saved from my business to pay for my hospital bills. I still don’t know what was the cause or reason for that kind of brutality,” said Nzingo, whose attacker was arrested but later released on bail.

I am very scared. I don’t sleep well. When I hear any noise I am alarmed. In my dreams I see that person following me,” she said.

Despite these kinds of cases, older people’s right to be free from violence and abuse is not currently protected under international law. There is also inadequate research into elder abuse, which makes tackling the problem even more difficult.

“The Global Status Report on Violence Prevention 2014 shows elder abuse is the least surveyed of the different types of violence in low-income countries[2],” said Sleap.  

The report, by the World Health Organization and UN agencies, reveals that of the 133 countries surveyed, two thirds do not have adult protective services in place to support older people subjected to elder abuse[3] despite the growing global population of older people.

The number of older people vulnerable to elder abuse is predicted to rise with a growing global population of older people. Currently, there are more than 895 million people aged 60 and over, representing 12% of the global population. By 2030, this is projected to rise to 1.3 billion or 16%.[4]

“A UN convention would take us a step closer to ensuring human rights are for everyone, at every stage of our lives,” said Sleap.

Follow the conversation on twitter with #WEAAD2015 or show your support by tweeting:

This #WEAAD2015, @helpage and older campaigners everywhere are calling for an end to #elderabuse. Join us & RT! http://bit.ly/L0agUu


Download full press release with the notes to editor in PDF here.

Media Contacts
Sarah Gillam, Media Relations Manager, +44 (0) 20 7148 7623 sarah.gillam@helpage.org  Skype: sarah.gillam.hai

Beth Howgate, Media Intern at HelpAge International, +44 (0) 20 7148 7606
beth.howgate@helpage.org Skype: beth.howgate.hai


[1] GAROP, In Our Own Words, p.3[2] Global Status Report on Violence Prevention 2014, p.23[3] Global Status Report p.41[4] UNDESA