Dr. Brownell, Associate Professor Emerita of Social Service, Fordham University in New York City, is a Board member of the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA), and past chair of the Sub-Committee on Older Women (SCOW) of the NGO Committee on Ageing, New York. She currently serves on the State of Ohio Attorney General Commission on Elder Abuse’s research committee and has been involved in elder abuse scholarship for over 25 years.
Abuse of older women in time of pandemic – Perspectives of International Network for Prevention of Elder Abuse, (INPEA)
Elsie Yan is a full professor at the Dept of Applied Social Sciences, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Dr. Yan’s research interests include family violence, with a focus on elder abuse, elder sexuality and health, as well as family caregiving. Prof Yan is a Fellow of the Gerontology Society of America (GSA) and a Fellow of INPEA.
I graduated with a Diploma in Physiotherapy in 1989, and subsequently read for a Post-Graduate Diploma in Gerontology & Geriatrics (Melit.) graduating in 1999. In 2001, I graduated with a Master in Geriatrics and Gerontology (Melit.), having presented my dissertation entitled “Abuse within a Chronic Care Institutional Setting for Older Persons in Malta.” In 2016, I graduated from the University of Nottingham with a PhD in Rehabilitation and Ageing. In my PhD project, “Physical Restraint Use within Long Term Care Settings in Malta”, I studied physical restraint use and associated autonomy issues.
I have been working in the field of Geriatrics since 1992. I also occupied the post of Manager Allied Health Services within the Department of Active Ageing and Community Care. I also performed duties related to quality assurance of care homes for the older persons with the local Social Care Standards Authority.
Currently I am a lecturer within the Department of Gerontology and Dementia Studies, at the University of Malta.
Areas of research include, elder abuse, physical restraint, residential care settings and social aspects of dementia.
Fenech, M. A., Vella, M., & Calleja, N. (2020). COVID-19 outbreaks in the Islands of Malta and Gozo. International Long Term Care Policy Network. Online publication. https://ltccovid.org/2020/06/09/the-covid-19-long-term-care-situation-in-the-islands-of-malta-and-gozo/ and https://ltccovid.org/country-reports-on-covid-19-and-long-term-care/
Silvia is the chair of the NGO Committee on Ageing in Geneva and representative to the UN of the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA) and the International Longevity Centre Global Alliance (ILC GA). An advocate for the rights of older persons and an independent consultant, she has been working in the fields of health, ageing and human rights for over 20 years. Before that, she was a theatre and TV producer using the arts to promote social change. She was born in Argentina and has lived, studied and worked in England, Israel, Hungary and Switzerland. She has a B.A. in social and educational theatre from Tel Aviv University and an MSc in Inter-Professional Practice from the Institute of Health Sciences of City University of London.
Marie Beaulieu, International Network for Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA), United States
Patricia Brownell, INPEA, United States
Susan Somers, INPEA, United States
Elsie Yan, INPEA, United States
Maria Aurora Fenech, INPEA, United States
Silvia Perel-Levin, INPEA, United States
In all regions of the world, the pandemic has revealed that older persons (OP) were more affected by the pandemic than other age groups, i.e., sicker when infected, encountering more short and long-term severe health conditions, and a higher death rate). The response to the pandemic varied across states and countries but most prevention/safety measures that were put in place were, afterward, seen as potentially abusive: the lockdown and resulting social isolation, lack of in-home supportive care for personal hygiene, feeding and hydration, postponed medical procedures, and at the end of life, OP and their families were deprived of critically important personal contact.
These conditions were finally acknowledged as elder abuse, visually and emotionally capturing the attention of the public and significantly, the politicians. For example, in April 2020, the Quebec Premier talked for the first time of “organisational neglect” when commenting on a series of dramatic deaths in prominent care institutions. Intergenerational relationships have also been challenged, with ageist comments describing COVID-19 deaths as a “Boomer remover”. This crisis in a crisis, elder abuse during the pandemic, provides a timely opportunity to highlight abuse of older persons and raise it to a higher level on the political agenda.
As women and men age differently, a gender lens is critical to understanding their experience from a life course perspective. We can no longer talk about OP without acknowledging the nuances of gender. in conjunction with an intersectional view of age, race, ethnicity, ability, etc. Since the onset of the pandemic, INPEA has held bimonthly virtual meetings with actors from all regions, discussing the links between the pandemic and abuse of OP, using a gender lens. This INPEA symposium will examine the situation of older women from different regions of the world during this pandemic. Questions to be discussed include asking how were older women affected both by the illness and the series of measures to counter the problem? What have been the short and long-term impacts of the virus and the prevention/safety measures in their life? How can the lessons learned on elder abuse in time of pandemic be moved forward on national, regional, and global agendas?
Presenter #1, Patricia Brownell
Trauma and older women
Trauma theory informs practice and policy in child abuse and domestic violence, but until very recently has not been seen as salient to the field of elder abuse. However, a growing number of scholars and practitioners have begun to examine the role of trauma in understanding and intervening in cases of abuse when older people, and in particular, older women, are victimized by people with whom they have a trusting relationship. COVID has heightened these concerns, not only as a potentially traumatizing factor independent of abuse, but also because it has altered the living circumstances of older adults, and increased risk factors such as social isolation.
The proposed presentation on trauma and older women will explain trauma theory in relation to older adults and in particular older women, survey the scholarship to date on trauma theory and abuse of older adults from a life course perspective, identify implications for policy and practice, and suggest a research agenda for the future.
Presenter #2, Elsie Yan
Childhood adversities and current intimate partner violence: Results from a representative community survey in Hong Kong
This study examined the associations between childhood life adversities and intimate partner violence (IPV) using a representative sample of 1,239 men and women aged between 18 and 97. Participants provided information on their demographic characteristics, lifetime history of adverse life events, and past year IPV. Results show that IPV is common: 32.8% reported past year psychological aggression, 4.5% reported physical abuse, and 1.1% reported injury. Various life adversities were also common: 21.7% experienced family disruption, 6% experienced abuse or witnessing violence, and 2.1% experienced life-threatening events. Logistic regression analyses revealed that experiencing abuse or witnessing violence in childhood is associated with a greater risk of past year psychological aggression, physical assault, and injury. Results were significant even after controlling for demographics and other life adversities. Family disruption in childhood was associated with increased risk of past year injury, but the association diminished after controlling for the rest of the variables. Experience of life-threatening events was not associated with any form of IPV. Our results suggest that childhood victimization, especially physical abuse by parents, is associated with future long-term risk of IPV. The implications on older persons from COVID – 19 restrictions will also be discussed.
Presenter #3, Maria Aurora Fenech
Elder abuse in Malta during COVID-19: Myth or reality?
The past 2 years, has seen world leaders maneuvering their way through the COVID-19 pandemic, whilst older persons within long term (LTC) settings, continued with their ambitions of good health and quality of life, respect and dignity, in spite of possible cognitive or functional deteriorations.
Throughout this 15 month process, Maltese older persons within LTC, obliged to blanket decisions of sheltering in place, at times, confined to their own rooms. Decisions were taken to stop anyone other than formal carers from entering the facility. Older persons who tested positive for COVID-19 were transferred to a dedicated remote facility.
Through the lengthy process of isolation, older persons were never roped into policy and/or decision making. The qualitative project, through face-to-face interviews, with a sample of older persons living in LTC, unearthed personalised experiences, on the basic human rights of dignity, fairness, equality, respect, independence, and freedoms.
Older persons argued how they always believed that society truly cared for its older persons, however the general policy and public discourse during the pandemic often devalued them, at times even indicating that the pandemic was their very own problem. They suggested how intergenerational solidarity, would optimise the support and connectedness for the older person.
Presenter #4, Silvia Perel-Levin
The Global response to COVID 19: Protection of older persons’ human rights and addressing gendered ageism through the UN/WHO mechanisms.
According to WHO estimates, 1 in 6 people aged over 60 suffers from abuse. That means nearly 141 million people globally. This number might be much higher as Violence, abuse and neglect of older persons are the most hidden and underreported violations of human rights.
COVID-19 spotlighted distressing reports of instances of abuse and neglect of older persons, particularly in long term care institutions but also in the community where the majority of older persons live. Older persons are at high risk of serious illness and mortality, but they are also discriminated against, stigmatized, and subjected to multiple violations of human rights.
The UN Secretary-General in his 2020 Policy Brief: The Impact of Covid-19 on Older Persons claimed that the lack of adequate national legislation to protect the rights of older persons and the absence of a dedicated internationally agreed legal framework, may have contributed to the inadequate responses to the COVID-19 crisis and that these gaps must be filled. In her first General Assembly Report (A/75/205), the United Nations Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights of older persons highlighted the inadequate legal framework governing rights to health, adequate standard of living, palliative care and age discrimination.