Grouse shooting, fox hunting and parking get more public attention than the abuse of older people according to research published late last year by Hourglass, the national charity that used to be known as Action on Elder Abuse. Hourglass conducted a survey of twitter accounts maintained by government departments and parliament, including police authorities, the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice and 10 Downing Street over the year to November 2021, with the findings based on a count of search terms. In the same year, in respect of parliamentary questions asked, no questions at all related to abuse of the elderly, 40 mentioned animal cruelty, 1,403 referenced child abuse and 1,957 referenced parking.
A the same time, Hourglass also polled 1000 people to try to gauge their awareness of elder abuse. Invited to say what they thought of when asked about abuse, respondents were asked to identify the characteristics that most sprang to mind. Roughly 50% said being female and being a child, 20% said being an animal, 12% being male and 7% older adults over 65.
These and other focussed surveys led Hourglass to assert that ‘The abuse of older people has almost no profile or priority within parliament and in government across the UK. That lack of profile and priority is reflected in public discourse on Twitter and in general public attitudes. For an issue that affects so many people, it is shameful and really concerning that the abuse of older people seems to be last in line for the government and public alike. As our survey shows, not enough people strongly associate older people as victims of abuse and seriously underestimate the number of older people who experience it ‘ (Hourglass; The Safer Ageing Index part 1, December 2021).
The research paper was subtitled ‘Last in Line’ portraying elder abuse as being right at the end of a list of other issues, and in the post pandemic world, judged it to be ‘de-prioritised by the government’. Hourglass calls for a vigorous campaign to raise the profile of elder abuse, and given our Church’s demographic, it makes sense to respond, and where we can be, to be proactive in our communities, when local council areas publicise the issue, which many plan to do.
The results are quite staggering, although the research did suggest that the 2021 findings were far better than the year before. It seems the first study established a very low base. Churches and other faith organisations generally have substantial contact with older people and so this research is a timely reminder that, as ever, we need to be aware of both individual and wider community circumstances. In so doing we can work collectively to ensure that the issue does not remain at the bottom of the list for public attention.