The enemy within: Economic abuse of senior citizens on the rise

20 June 2016 - 09:37 By NIVASHNI NAIR

In South Africa - where, saysStatsSA, there are nearly 4.4million elderly people - more are suffering from economic abuse at the hands of their children and grandchildren. Driving the abuse is people's desire to gain access to their parents' and grandparents' pensions, investments and other assets.The World Health Organisation estimates the global population of people aged 60 and older will more than double from 900million in 2015 to an estimated 2billion in 2050.In addition to economic abuse, the UN estimates that between 4% and 6% of elderly people experience maltreatment at home.Femada Shamam, the Association for the Aged chief operating officer, said wealthy elderly people were most at risk.She said their access to money made them a greater target.Department has plan to cover pensioners' funeralsGrannies and grandpas may soon breathe a sigh of relief as the Department of Social Development is finalising plans to pay for their burials. "They are soft targets. They have as much need of protection as the person who does not have as much financially."What is coming to the fore is financial abuse, where people within their circle of trust - either offspring, extended family or grandchildren - want to access their pension or other resources like their house."Shamam said the elderly were often left with nothing after they were coerced out of their possessions.CJ van Zyl, CEO of Fulami, a Gauteng-based NGO focused on improving the well-being of the elderly, said even those living with relatives or friends were often robbed of their pensions."The elderly are often robbed of such finances in subtle or sly ways by family or friends."Shamam said statistics collected by the Department of Justice since 2010 showed that abuse of the elderly was increasing.4 ways to help your employees with retirementSince March this year, most employees who are members of a company retirement fund have been able to make bigger tax-deductible monthly contributions to their pension funds to boost their retirement savings. In the 2010-2011 financial year there were 1458 reported cases; this rose to 2497 cases in the 2012-2013 financial year."Not everyone is familiar with the Older Persons Act. Role-players are not clear on what their roles are."If you go to the police to report an incident, they wouldn't know they have the authority to remove the alleged perpetrators," Shamam said.The Department of Social Development failed to respond to questions on the abuse of the elderly.

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