Falling between the cracks: Abuse and Violence against older women
Marking World Elder Abuse Awareness Day – 10 years on
Human Rights Council 29th session
Delivered by Leslie Marks, on behalf of the U.S. Mission in Geneva
June 15, 2015
I am honored to be here as the United States is a co-sponsor of this event.
The more we study elder abuse, the more we understand that elder abuse is a form of violence that predominantly impacts women. Global prevalence data is lacking, but we know that across the world, women comprise the majority of elder abuse victims. (In the United Sates, 2 out of 3 elder abuse victims are women). Some reasons behind the disproportionate impact of elder abuse on older women include higher rates of poverty, social isolation, and dependence on a caregiver (often a spouse).
In every country, older women who are abused are more likely to suffer illness and die sooner than those who are spared abuse. The negative health effects of abuse are particularly acute for older women and include higher incidences of many serious conditions, from depression and anxiety to arthritis, breast cancer, and heart disease. In addition to the incalculable cost of human suffering, increased incidence of elder abuse will create significant costs to health systems across the globe.
The U.S. has focused on developing practical measures to address elder abuse both at home and globally. The “U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence” acknowledges violence against women and girls across the life cycle, including elder abuse. President Obama signed into law the Elder Justice Act in 2010 which is dedicated to the prevention, detection, treatment, intervention and prosecution of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation, while recognizing that every individual should be able to live a life free of any form of these experiences, and advocating for that cause.
Every ten years, the White House hosts a Conference on Ageing, and this is one of those years. On the agenda for the first time is Elder Justice: preventing and responding to elder abuse, financial exploitation, and neglect.
I would like to pose a question to the distinguished panelists. How can UN entities working on gender-based violence further integrate the issues of elder abuse and violence against older women into their existing programming?