Rate of elder abuse by senior adults explodes

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Rate of elder abuse by senior adults explodes

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The reported number of elder abuse cases has been consistently growing since 2012, but last year the rate increased dramatically, with one subcategory, the abuse of senior adults by other senior adults, accounting for approximately 42 percent of the 3,818 total cases.

Lee Jae-yong, a department head of Senior Policy in Ministry of Health and Welfare said, “Elder abuse by other senior adults has been growing as people these days live longer lifespans.”

Elder abuse refers to inflicting mental, physical and sexual violence against those aged 60 and older. It also includes neglect and abandonment.

Last year, the number of abusers aged 60 and older totaled 1,762, an increase of nearly 13 percent from the previous year.

Of these, 36 percent were married to the victims. One 77-year-old victim in a senior care center in Gangwon Province was beaten by her husband, who had an alcohol abuse problem. After he broke her wrist and she had to get stitches in her forehead, she left home to live in the center.

The children of elder abuse victims account for a significant portion of abusers as well.

One 63-year-old man, who returned to live with his mother after retiring, hoped to inherit his mother’s property. Once his 86-year-old mother signed the necessary documents, the son began verbally abusing her with remarks such as, “Are you ever going to die?” and “I’ll leave you somewhere no one can find you.” The mother eventually called her daughter in fear of “being beaten to death.”

“Whether children or spouses,” said Choi Hye-ji, a professor of social welfare at Seoul Women’s University, “they can’t deal with the stress of having to care for the elderly when they themselves need care. Elder couples’ poor economic status is another factor in the abuse. A policy to alleviate their economic burden is desperately needed.”

“The increase of such abuse is somewhat inevitable,” said Jeong Soon-dool, head of Ewha Womans University graduate school of social welfare. “And cases in which victims are abandoned could lead to suicides, so some social mechanism has to be implemented to prevent such tragedies.”

The Ministry of Health and Welfare decided to enforce stricter hiring practices at facilities for senior adults and to introduce more severe punishment for habitual offenders among those working in such facilities. The ministry also increased the number of annually required status reports from eight to 14 and increased the fines for elder abuse from 2 million won ($1,700) to 5 million won.

“This policy was amended last year and will take effect from Dec. 30,” said Lee of the health ministry. “We will further strengthen these policies.”

BY HWANG SOO-YEON [jeong.byungki@joongang.co.kr]

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