Problem of elderly abuse 'hidden'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 May, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 May, 2001, 12:00am

The full extent of physical and mental abuse of the elderly is being hidden because awareness of the problem is low and people are reluctant to report it, a survey has found.

Although people regard abuse of the elderly, and physical abuse in particular, as intolerable, many would not report cases to the authorities, it found.

The study was carried out last month by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University's Centre for Social Policy Studies, which interviewed 1,385 people.

Chung Kim-wah, associate professor at the university's Department of Applied Social Studies, said the findings showed people were passive towards the problem. 'There is an urgent need to enhance people's alertness through education and publications,' he said.

Professor Iris Chi, head of the University of Hong Kong's Department of Social Work and Social Administration, said based on foreign studies, there could be more than 200,000 cases of abuse of the elderly a year in Hong Kong.

The Social Welfare Department said there were 240 cases of elderly abuse reported in Hong Kong between October 1998 and February this year.

Yu Mei-yuk, a social worker from Caritas Hong Kong, said guidelines should be drafted to advise frontline social workers on how to handle the issue.

'Victim's wishes are paramount and intervention is only possible with their agreement,' Ms Yu said.

The Social Welfare Department said a taskforce had been set up and was drafting guidelines for social workers and preparing a reporting system for elderly abuse.