Australia’s Age Discrimination Commissioner is in Katherine today exploring the challenges of elder abuse.
Dr Kay Patterson said she is particularly worried about the number of older women at risk of homelessness.
Spending 10 days across Darwin, Katherine and Alice Springs, Dr Patterson is meeting with older Territorians and service providers to discuss issues affecting them.
“The rate of homelessness among older women in the NT is 19 times higher than the national rate and while the NT saw a decline in homelessness generally between 2011 and 2016, the number of older women experiencing homelessness remains stable,” Dr Patterson said.
“Nationally, we know older Australians are one of the fastest growing categories of homeless. Older single women are particularly vulnerable to housing difficulties later in life due to the high cost of housing and having less wealth at retirement resulting from the gender pay gap and differences in workforce participation.”
Following a visit to the Katherine Doorways Hub, Dr Patterson said a big issue facing the older population in Katherine is a lack of access to identification cards – identification is a crucial part of accessing services.
She said she is also concerned older people do not always have control over how their benefits are spent.
While in Katherine she is focusing on education and making sure everyone knows their rights.
The rate of homelessness among older women in the NT is 19 times higher than the national rate.Dr Kay Patterson
Her observations of issues will inform policy makers in an attempt to minimise elder abuse.
Across Australia, a range of innovative solutions are being used to respond to homelessness and the demand for affordable housing, which could be adapted for the NT, Dr Patterson said.
“These range from new housing development initiatives, to socially-driven investment models and highly integrated service delivery models,” Dr Patterson said.
The Commissioner said ageist attitudes and Australia’s ageing population were also contributing to the growing problem of elder abuse and the NT was not immune.
It is estimated that two to ten per cent of older Australians experience elder abuse in any given year, with financial abuse the most common form.
“We know that victims are reluctant to report this abuse, which I believe is linked to the fact nearly 70 per cent of perpetrators are the children of the victim,” Dr Patterson said.
“We can help protect older Australians with uniform national laws, cross-industry collaborations, helping older Australians understand their rights, and training up staff in banks, law firms and hospitals, who are well placed to detect abuse early.
“Approaches I’ve seen work tend to be driven by and tailored to local communities.
“Support and legal services should be developed with the particular needs of people in rural and remote places in mind – not as an afterthought,” she said.
While in Katherine Dr Patterson will be visiting Katherine Town Council, Katherine Women’s Crisis Centre, The Katherine Doorways Hub and Katherine Women’s Information and Legal Service.