Charity warns abuse of older people reaching ‘unprecedented levels’ with almost 2.7 million victims

Abuse of older people is at “unprecedented levels” – with almost 2.7 million victims thought to be affected in the UK, a charity has said.

Hourglass gave the warning after it commissioned a survey which said 22% of UK residents have personal experience of abuse of an older person, or know someone who has been targeted.

The charity, which promotes safer aging, believes attitudes regarding what counts as abuse is fuelling the problem.

Its survey conducted in June suggested that 35% of people in the UK do not believe “inappropriate sexual acts directed at older people” count as abuse, and nearly 30% do not view “pushing, hitting, or beating an older person” as abuse.

Almost one third also said they do not see “taking precious items from an older relative’s home without asking” as abuse.

In March, Hourglass warned that isolation would act like a “pressure cooker” for the abuse of older people, due to situations where older people are locked down with their abusers or isolated without care.

More than half of the poll’s 2,505 respondents said they believe abuse and neglect of older people has increased because of lockdown.

Richard Robinson, the chief executive of Hourglass, said he was “genuinely shocked” by the results of the survey which “really shine a light on the true scale of the crisis”.

He said: “Our polling shows that while people know that abuse of older people is a problem in the UK today, there’s a complete disconnect between awareness of the issue and a true understanding of the role we all play in preventing abuse.

“While I’ve no doubt that the vast majority of people don’t consider themselves to be abusers, the truth is that a troubling proportion of those we surveyed don’t actually see some very harmful behaviours as abuse.

“Without countering these perceptions, people are far more likely to perpetuate the cycle of abuse and are part of the problem.”

Dame Vera Baird (pictured), Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, said the Hourglass findings were “both concerning and unacceptable” and thanked the charity for its work in ending harm and exploitation of older people.

She said: “Lockdown has undoubtedly been difficult for many of us, but for some staying at home is more than a temporary hardship – it can be downright dangerous.”

She added: “It also bears repeating: if you, or someone you know, is suffering abuse, isolation rules do not apply.

“You can and should break lockdown rules to escape injury or harm. Lockdown will not stop you getting help.”

Hourglass, the only UK-wide charity focussed on addressing the abuse and neglect of older people, said it will expand its support, including an instant messaging service to assist people in finding help.

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