Speakers from Australia, Europe, Britain and Ireland gathered in Dublin's Smock Alley Theatre today to discuss how to identify and prevent elder abuse.
The conference was organised by Age Action, Ireland's leading advocacy organisation for older people, and the Gaiety School of Acting who are developing a series of drama workshops to help care workers and older people in residential settings challenge ageism and prevent elder abuse.
Dr Marita O’Brien, coordinator of Age Action's elder abuse project, said: “The number of elder abuse cases reported to the HSE is rising every year and we know many victims are too frightened to tell anyone.
“This conference brings together experts from Ireland, Europe and Australia to discuss new ways of highlighting the dangers of elder abuse and to identify innovative approaches that can help to prevent more older people becoming victims.”
Among the new approaches is a project being led by Age Action and the Gaiety School of Acting with partners in Finland, Italy and Romania that uses drama workshops to educate older people and carers about elder abuse.
Dr Marita O'Brien continued: "Over recent months we've worked with the Gaiety School of Acting and our European partners to develop a series of workshops that can be run in nursing homes or other residential settings.
"It's a creative and interactive way for care staff to learn how their actions can be perceived by older people and it helps older people to understand the kinds of behaviour they should not accept and encourages them to act if they believe they are being abused."
Rising levels of elder abuse
The most recent figures from the HSE indicate that in 2014 they recorded 2,592 elder abuse cases, the highest number since records began and a five per cent increase on the previous year.
The true figure is likely far higher due to a lack of awareness of the issue and a reluctance on the part of many victims to report their case to the HSE.
Earlier this year Age Action launched a campaign to highlight the dangers of financial elder abuse, distributing tens of thousands of information leaflets to community groups, information centres and families across Ireland.
The conference is part of an Erasmus + funded project involving Age Action and partners in Finland, Italy and Romania, along with the Gaiety School of Acting in Dublin, in tackling elder abuse, particularly for older people receiving care. It focuses on educating and empowering older people to protect themselves.