Respect Older People: Call it Out

By calling out ageism and sexism, we can prevent elder abuse and violence against older people.
On this page

About this campaign

Nobody should experience discrimination, stigma or violence due to their age or gender. 

Helen and her grandson Oliver have a relationship built on mutual respect, love and a commitment to connection. But Helen is conscious of the ageism and discrimination that older people experience. 

Whether we are nine or 90, we all deserve to be safe, equal and respected. To prevent elder abuse from happening, we must understand how it works, and the underlying attitudes, structures and beliefs that drive it.

"The thing that has amazed me about getting older is the lack of understanding that we do have ideas, can contribute, are interested in what’s happening in our world. You’re not asked to give an opinion when you would love to.” – Helen, Respect Older People: ‘Call It Out’ campaign.

Watch Helen and Ollie's story below. 

 

What is elder abuse?

Elder abuse is a form of family violence perpetrated against older people, usually defined as people over the age of 65. Up to 14 per cent of older people in Australia experience elder abuse, with older women more likely to be victims.

The forms that elder abuse can take include financial abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological or emotional abuse, and neglect. Elder abuse is most often perpetrated by adult children or relatives of older people, and older people can face stigma, isolation, the removal of personal agency, and other barriers when seeking support or considering disclosing abuse.

It is important to note that older people hold diverse life experiences, and factors like gender, ability, gender identity, race, sexuality and ethnicity can intersect to compound experiences of marginalisation or abuse.

What does the data tell us?

A recent national study – conducted by the Australian Institute of Family Studies - investigated the prevalence and nature of elder abuse in Australia. More than 7,000 people over 65 were surveyed. It found that: 

  • Almost one in six older Australians experienced abuse in 2021
  • Two thirds of older people don't seek help when they are abused (61 per cent). 
  • More women than men reported experiencing abuse, with women more likely to experience neglect, psychological abuse, sexual abuse
  • Family members are the most likely perpetrators of elder abuse, with the adult children of older people the most likely to perpetrate financial abuse
  • Friends, acquaintances and neighbours are also perpetrators of elder abuse, particularly sexual abuse. 
 

How can we prevent elder abuse?

We all deserve to be treated equally, regardless of age or gender. We can all work together to create a more connected, caring and equal society. Here are some tips to get you started:

Calling out ageism and sexism

Ageism is discrimination, stereotyping or prejudice against a person or a group of people based on age. Sexism is discrimination and prejudice based on outdated stereotypes and is often based on the assumption that men are superior to women. For older people, these two forms of discrimination can lead to isolation, shame, and abuse.

We can all call out sexism and ageism. This can look like:

  • Not laughing at or actively calling out jokes or comments that discriminate against older people based on age or gender 
  • Thinking about the unconscious biases you may hold, and doing the work to understand how ageism and sexism can affect the older people in your life or how you speak to or about them 
  • Advocating for policies in your workplace, local sports club or community group that support and are inclusive of older people, particularly older women.
     

Leading with connection and respect

One of the simplest ways to prevent elder abuse, is to lead with respect and foster positive attitudes towards ageing in your community, family, and workplace. This can look like:

  • Supporting young people to have mutually respectful, caring relationships with older relatives or neighbours
  • Promoting or celebrating the voices and contributions of older people in your workplace or community
  • Seeking the opinions and expertise of older people wherever appropriate, and ensuring their agency is upheld. 
  • There are many ways to take action towards a more equal society for older people, but change starts with tackling ageism and sexism. 
 

Campaign materials

A series of printed materials have been developed to support this campaign and can be downloaded below. To receive printed copies of any of the following resources, please email contact@respectvictoria.vic.gov.au 

 

Multicultural resources

A series of translated materials have been developed to support this campaign and can be downloaded below. 

Arabic


Chinese


Greek 


Italian


Vitenamese

How to seek help

Elder abuse response services 

If there is an emergency and you or someone you know is in danger, call emergency services on triple zero (000). For support, advice or information for yourself or a loved one:
 

  1. Seniors Rights Victoria provides information, support, advice and education for older people and their family members or loved ones. Phone 1300 368 821 or visit the Senior Rights Victoria website
  2. Elder Rights Advocacy provide specialist advice on elder abuse within the context of Australian Government-funded aged care services (residential and home care). For more information on Elder Rights Advocacy phone 1800 700 600 or visit the Older Persons Advocacy Network website
  3. Safe Steps are available to support people in Victoria who are experiencing or at risk of any form of family violence. The service is available 24 hours per day, seven days a week. Phone 1800 015 188 or head to their website to use the webchat service. 
  4. Rainbow Door is a specialist helpline for LGBTIQA+ people and their families. They support people of all ages, and can refer older people and their families to inclusive services. Phone 1800 729 367 from 10am-5pm seven days a week, or head to their website. 
  5. The Victorian Public Advocate is empowered by law to promote and safeguard the rights and interests of people living with a disability. For more phone 1300 309 337 or visit the Office of the Public Advocate website
 

Acknowledgement

Respect Victoria acknowledges the work of the Elder Abuse Reform team (Fairer Victoria, within the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing), the Commissioner for Senior Victorians (Mr Gerard Mansour) and Seniors Rights Victoria.