Abuse of Fiji's elderly on the rise | Pacific Beat

Abuse of Fiji's elderly on the rise

Abuse of Fiji's elderly on the rise

Updated 10 July 2013, 10:17 AEST

Once you hit the twilight period of your life you would be expecting to live in tranquility.

But the need for a 'World Elderly Abuse Awareness Day' would suggest otherwise.

Fiji's Seavula, second student with residents of Fr. Law Home, Lami did their own research and found that elderly abuse is a hidden reality in Fiji.

The Executive Director of the Fiji Council of Social Services, Mohammed Hassan Khan, says the findings are anecdotal, based on consultations in the past two years.

Presenter: Geraldine Coutts

Speaker: Mohammed Hassan Khan, Executive Director, Fiji Council of Social Services

KHAN: This is when we were helping the Ministry of Social Welfare in putting in place our Fiji National Policy on Ageing and which policy is now in place and this was put in place in 2011. It's become official document and an act. And then last year, we worked with the Ministry of Social Welfare in putting together the National Council for Older Persons, which is now in place. The 15th of June last year, was the first year that the 15th June The World Elderly Abuse Awareness Day was marked throughout the world and what we hear from mostly from the people and when we did a radio talkback show, a month ago, we found that most of the complaints were abuse within the family and the elder peoples houses and whatever financial resources they had were taken away by children or they used it on children and children have not paid back.

There are cases of abuse where they're locked up, mostly focusing on emotional abuse and which is of the worst kind that is happening. There is very little evidence of violence against them, but wherever they are, they are found out by neighbours and these are the type of reports we have.

With the establishment and now functioning of the National Council of Older Persons - NCOP - we hope that these are the things that will be reversed by the Council officially at the official level and now that we have the mandate through this Council.

COUTTS: Is this something that you're seeing it on the rise, increasing, and that's the abuse of the elderly. I'm just wondering what the reason for that would be. Is it the breakdown of the family of the extended family, where the children were once expected to look after their elders are not in a position to do now, because they can't afford it, that economic pressures on them as well?

KHAN: Yes, definitely, that. Those are the reasons that have to be established. There has been a lot of cases of older people being abandoned by the children and they've migrated for various reasons. There are, of course, then children staying on their own and they want their own lives etc, so that's another reason and the extended family system is definitely has broken down to a large extent and there is very little remaining and this is one of the things that needs to be enhanced eventually.

The Family Law Act in Fiji provides for where the parents can take legal action against their children for support. This is the law which is similar to the one in Singapore and maybe in a lot of other countries. And because, but this has not, we don't recall there is any case where parents have taken their children to court.

COUTTS: So the parents can sue for maintenance from their children?

KHAN: Yes, yes, parental maintenance.

COUTTS: And that hasn't happened yet. I'm also wondering that was also brought in by decree since the coup of 2006, the fact that public servants now and including teachers, etc. nurses, are required to, or I think nurses have changed, but are required to retire at 55. How much pressure has that also brought and now might feed into this issue of the abuse of the elderly?

KHAN: Again, there is no official or scientific research into this. What we hear is that there are people who are not well and this thing has come to a shock to them. But then again, there has been put in place the National Fiji Volunteer Service Scheme.

We, the Fiji Council of Social Services has been running a National Volunteer Centre for the last 20 years, and that to has been able to help. I think the Civil Society Organisations are playing a leading role in that. In fact, they are now almost the third largest provider of employment and more so of total retired, because civil society organisations do not have any retirement age, because there is no age basis situation as far as the civil society organisations are concerned. People can work as long they are healthy, in a way as long as they like. So that maybe, maybe an instance again - the new Council should be able to look into this. But there are programs going on where they can be observed, observed into some kind of community and other services and a lot of them have chosen to be in the voluntary capacities and all that.

COUTTS: I wonder also, because the population demographics now are polarised. A goodly percentage of the Pacific are under 30. I'm also wondering whether, like Australia, where the baby boomers are heading into retirement age and will be feeding into this elderly in need of assistance, whether that's the same situation in Fiji?

KHAN: Yes, it is almost the same situation. The baby boomers are living into their 70s and beyond. Now you have a case where the people in their 60s are looking after their parents in their 80s. This called a Sandwich Generation and they're people in 40s and 50s looking after their parents and great grandparents, so that situation is fast arising. We have a total of 3,000 people per annum, annually, entering the plus-70 bracket, so that's a huge concern and this is what we've heard just last week in the National Council of Older Persons.

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