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#GoTurquoiseForTheElderly: Experts weigh in on elder abuse

The toll-free National Elder Abuse Helpline number is 0800 10 11 10.

Elder abuse is a serious issue that affects many older adults. In light of the Go Turquoise for the Elderly Campaign, which runs from May 15 to June 15 (World Elder Abuse Awareness Day), the Boksburg Advertiser spoke to two local experts about abuse issues affecting older adults in our community.

Cynthia Nhlapho, founding member of Tshepo Ya Sechaba, explains the types of abuse:

Physical: This involves inflicting physical pain or injury on an older adult, such as hitting, slapping, pushing, kicking, or rough handling. Signs may include bruises, welts, cuts, broken bones, or other injuries.

Sexual: Refers to non-consensual sexual contact or activity with an older adult. This includes unwanted touching, sexual coercion, or forcing an older person to watch or engage in sexual acts.

Emotional: Involves verbal assaults, threats, harassment, or other actions that cause mental anguish, fear, or distress. Signs may include resignation, hopelessness, fearfulness, anxiety or withdrawn behaviour.

Neglect: This is the failure of a caregiver to provide the necessities of life, such as food, water, hygiene, clothing or a safe environment. This can lead to an older adult being underweight, frail, unclean, or living in dangerous conditions.

Financial exploitation: Includes misusing or withholding an older adult’s resources for personal gain. This can involve overcharging for goods or services, unexplained changes to legal documents, missing money or belongings, or using coercion to obtain the older person’s assets.

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Susan Cilliers, CEO, Boksburg Society for the Aged:

According to Cilliers, financial exploration is the most prevalent form of elder abuse.

“We have seen family members will use an elderly person’s money for their own gain. Some families expect old age homes to attend to the older person’s needs without contributing anything. They would not even provide toiletries or nappies,” she said.

Cilliers added loneliness among older people is also a cause for concern.

“Many people leave their family members here without ever checking up on them.

“Residents rarely receive visitors on special days either, such as Christmas or Mother’s Day.”

The CEO said another issue is people who cannot afford to put a senior citizen in an old age home, leave them home alone during the day.

“This can also create loneliness. In some cases, these elderly are forced to share a room with a grandchild, which takes away their dignity.

“Some parents also abuse old people by making them babysit during school and other holidays, for example – all the time and not just occasionally.

“It is a problem because these old people do not always have the strength to look after a child.”

About physical abuse, Cilliers said it is often difficult to prove an old person being mistreated.

“Their skin bruises easily and older adults are prone to falling.

“Boksburg Society for the Age investigates all complaints. Fortunately, most people stand up for themselves and report elder abuse.”

Mampho Mbethe, a social worker at Boksburg Society for the Aged, said she was planning a programme in support of Go Turquoise for the Elderly to inform residents about their rights and responsibilities.

This is also a means for us to become aware of abuse. The elderly can express their concerns and we can attend to these,” she said.

Cilliers said anybody aware of elder abuse or who has any other concerns is welcome to contact the Boksburg Society for the Aged on 011 915 5416.


• Toll-free National Elder Abuse Helpline: 0800 10 11 10
• Boksburg Society for the Aged: 011 915 5416
• Your nearest police station
• DSD head office: 011 355 7600
• DSD Johannesburg: 011 355 9500
• DSD Ekurhuleni: 011 873 9390.

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