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Coronavirus could act as ‘pressure cooker’ to increase abuse and neglect of the elderly

Elderly person with walking stick - Image credit: Adobe Stock 120069650

Coronavirus could act as ‘pressure cooker’ to increase abuse and neglect of the elderly

Coronavirus isolation could act as a “pressure cooker” leading to increased abuse and neglect of the elderly, an older people’s charity has warned.

Safer aging charity Hourglass, formerly known as Action on Elder Abuse, warned of a significantly increased risk of abuse and neglect of older people as social distancing and self-isolation take effect.

The charity cautioned that the UK’s lockdown measures will exacerbate existing tensions and create an environment where abuse and neglect become more likely.

It cited evidence from domestic abuse charities and campaigners showing that during times of stress and societal instability, rates of domestic violence rise.

In the last month, activists in China have revealed a spike in domestic abuse cases as a result of the lockdown, it said.

Hourglass is warning that older people are in particular danger from increased isolation as normal safeguards offered by regular day to day contact with the outside world no longer operate, creating an environment where abuse of older people is more likely to occur but is harder to spot.

The warning comes as the charity released new polling data that found that 25 per cent of Scots don’t believe that ‘acts of domestic violence directed towards an older person’ count as abuse, while 41 per cent said that ‘not attending to an older person’s needs in a timely fashion’ doesn’t constitute abuse.

Across the UK as a whole the figures were even higher, with more than a third of respondents not recognising domestic violence towards older people as abuse and almost half believing that neglect does not count as abuse.

Commenting on the findings, Richard Robinson, CEO of Hourglass, said: “What we have here is a recipe for disaster.

“Even under the best of circumstances, we know that more than a million older people experience abuse or neglect in the UK every year.

“The findings from our polling indicate that even before coronavirus was a factor – the research was conducted in January and February of this year – a shockingly large proportion of people have a disturbing tolerance for abusive behaviours towards older people.

“We also know that assaults and domestic murders surge by as much as 25 percent during the festive season – a time when the combination of financial strain and family members cooped up in close proximity exerts additional burden on relationships.

“The lockdown measures – necessary as they are for tackling coronavirus – will create a pressure cooker environment for abuse, with vulnerable older people at particular risk.”

Hourglass is calling on the Scottish Government to provide emergency funding to ensure that charities such as itself can continue to provide vital services over the coming months.

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