Welfare groups call for laws to improve plight of elderly abuse victims

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 May, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 May, 2002, 12:00am

Welfare groups have called for legislation against abuse directed at the elderly as they warned many victims do not file complaints.

Kris Tong Sung-man of the Hong Kong Council of Social Service said many elderly people did not know how to seek help. Others did not lodge complaints because they were abused by people who they depended on for financial support.

Based on last year's figures, which showed there were about 750,000 people aged 65 or above living in the SAR, she said a study had estimated more than 20,000 elderly citizens may suffer abuse.

The Social Welfare Department and non-governmental organisations recorded just 143 cases of elderly abuse from October 1999 to February last year.

Backing calls for legislation, Tam Dip-wan, director of the Elderly Rights League HK, said: 'This is severe under-reporting. Many elderly do not speak out or they do not know who to complain to.'

However, a council member of the Hong Kong Psychogeriatric Association, Li Siu-wah, said education was more important than legislation to combat such abuse.

'It's hard to define abuse . . . neglect can be a possible form of abuse, and you have to ascertain what these uncertainties are before you legislate.'

Four types of elderly abuse are recognised internationally: physical and emotional abuse, financial exploitation and neglect. However, there are no specific laws on elderly abuse in Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, the proportion of elderly suicides is falling. People aged 60 and above made up 26.3 per cent of suicides in 2000 compared with 29.5 per cent in 1997. Deputy Secretary for Health and Welfare Patrick Nip Tak-kuen said the reason was due in part to an expanding elderly population.