Elderly need more protection

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 March, 2013, 3:11am

The report, "Elderly women turn to crime" (March 8), raises concerns for the elderly in Hong Kong.

Like financial hardship, abuse of the elderly is a serious problem that needs to be tackled.

Volunteers at the Elder Ring, a hotline service operated by the Senior Citizen Home Safety Association for elderly people on public assistance, often came across heart-wrenching cases of elderly abuse. Here are two examples.

An 80-year-old woman was continuously harassed by her daughter-in-law who visited her from the mainland. When accused of petty theft, the woman beat up her mother-in-law so severely that neighbours had to call the police. However, the policemen failed to enter the flat and conceded that it was a family dispute and officers could not intervene. The old woman tried to change the locks on her house, but the daughter-in-law was a locksmith.

Another story, broadcast on CCTV, showed an elderly father toiling day and night doing two jobs, while his 32-year-old son stayed at home doing nothing. When the father complained, the son said his father brought him into the world so should look after him.

Social Welfare Department statistics show there were 408 elderly abuse cases last year, up from 368 cases in 2011. Of these, 63.7 per cent was physical abuse. Others included financial abuse, mental torture, negligence and desertion. However, these figures are only the tip of the iceberg, since few Chinese parents are willing to report abuses due to their conservative ideas about dignity.

Prompt action is needed to tackle this social problem.

Existing procedural guidelines on elderly abuse cases must be strictly enforced to ensure concerted efforts between various government departments, especially the police, and non-governmental organisations. Better co-ordination between the Social Welfare Department's integrated services centres and the Health Department's community geriatric assessment team is needed.

Also, with HK$15 billion from the budget given to the Community Care Fund, more training should be provided and more social workers put on the front line who can deal with elderly abuse cases.

Finally, more public education is needed. The pamphlet on elderly abuse should be widely distributed, and social workers should reach out to uncover such cases. The government should educate the young on filial piety. Confucian wisdom holds that before man could rule a nation and make peace in the world, he must first build a harmonious family.

Patsy Leung, Mid-Levels