A national inquiry is calling on elderly Australians who have experienced abuse to share their stories.
The Australian Law Reform Commission is investigating a sometimes insidious form of abuse often perpetrated by family members.
It can include forcing an elderly parent into an aged care home to sell the house, threatening to withdraw care or banning contact with other family members if they refuse, or physical abuse and neglect.
The commission is calling for submissions from those who have experienced elder abuse, including in Indigenous, LGBTI and culturally diverse communities.
It was launched by Attorney-General George Brandis, prompted by a predicted surge of the number of older Australians in the coming decades.
In 1901, 4 per cent of Australians were aged 65 years and older. In 2011 it was 14 per cent and by 2040 it is projected the figure will be 21 per cent. Those over 85 years will be up to 5 per cent of the population by 2050.
"With Australia's population ageing, the potential for elder abuse to affect a significant number of people in the community is very real," commission president Rosalind Croucher said. "It is crucial to look at how we can provide better safeguards for older people from this abuse."
Figures released on Wednesday by elderly advocacy service Advocare revealed the number of phone calls to elder abuse hotlines around Australia have more than doubled in one year.
While reporting of elder abuse was becoming more common, Council of the Ageing ACT's executive director Jenny Mobbs said it was "still a hidden issue".
Ms Mobbs encouraged people to not only make a submission to the law reform inquiry, but to seek help if they felt they were being abused.
Fiona May, chief executive at ACT Disability, Aged and Carer Advocacy Service, said her organisation wanted to see elder abuse become part of the national conversation about family violence.
But she says elder abuse is not always intentional.
"Pyschological abuse and neglect can happen because family members are tired, overwhelmed, frustrated or don't get the support they need and they unintentionally don't treat the older person well," she said.
More than 60 per cent of perpetrators are sons and daughters, the Advocare report says, while the figure is higher when other family members are included.
Another aspect is abuse by and within services, such as retirement villages or the health system. ACT health services commissioner Graeme Innes said he believed Australia would hear more about elder abuse as the baby boomers aged.
"As the baby boomers become older there is going to be more reporting and calling out of dissatisfaction with services and services generation – we're a generation who don't tolerate it in the way previous generations might have."
The closing date for submissions is August 18, 2016.
- Research suggests that about 4.6 per cent of elderly Australians are victims of elder abuse every year. The Australian Institute of Criminology estimates that up to 50,000 people aged 65 and over in NSW had experienced some form of abuse or neglect.
- Elder abuse can include financial abuse (37 per cent), physical (9 per cent), psychological (39 per cent), sexual (1 per cent), social (5 per cent) or neglect (9 per cent).
- Elder abuse is defined as abuse of an older person in a relationship based on trust. In July, Victoria's Royal Commission into Family Violence heard that in about 92 per cent of elder abuse cases, the abuser is a family member.
- Elder abuse travels across socio-economic groups and ethnic groups and can occur in the community as well as in aged-care facilities and hospitals.
- A total of $56.7 million in property and savings was misappropriated from 139 elder abuse victims in Queensland in the 2013-14 financial year, the Royal Commission into Family Violence heard.
- Financial abuse can include a person in a position of trust abusing a power of attorney or, in extreme cases, involve an elderly person signing over their assets as a result of undue coercion.
- Neighbours can make a difference: if you see something that worries you, do something about it.
- The ACT elder abuse information line is: 02 6205 3535.