Tuesday, June 18, 2013

World Elder Abuse Awareness

Abuse of the elderly is the topic of a recent Peace Weekly article. June 15th has been designated World Elder Abuse Awareness Day by the United Nations. In Korea, there are 24 organizations whose goal is to protect our elderly. In 2010, there were 3068 abusive incidents reported, and in recent years, there has been an increase in these numbers. When one remembers that most of the abuse comes from children, it is easy to understand why this is greatly under-reported.

The abuse may be physical, mental, sexual, financial. It may entail violence, neglect or even abandonment.  There are a variety of ways in which it can be seen. Even the refusal to go to a hospital for treatment or refusing necessary attention, which is the neglect of self, comes under this heading.

Those who have studied the issue see much of this as handed down from a climate of violence within the family or from neglect of the children when they should have been nurtured. The break-up of families is also a cause, and when the children come under the care of the grandparents, the resentment often shows up in the abuse of the grandparents.

To prevent this, the article mentions the need for the elderly to prepare for their old age. For the elderly to think that by raising and educating their children the children now have to take care of them is the kind of thinking that has to be discarded. Parents should not depend, the article strongly advises, on the financial help of the children, who in most cases are intensely involved with caring for their own children, and taking on any additional financial burden is bound to be extremely difficult.

The so-called Kangaroo and NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) Generation--those in their thirties who are receiving help from their parents--are increasing, which tends to create the conditions leading to even more parental abuse. 

There  is a need to acquaint the public of these conditions and the help needed by those who are being abused; this will require educating the public. The stubbornness of the younger generation and their blindness to traditional cultural values are also problems here. The article cites Sirach 25:6: "The crown of old men is wide experience; their glory the fear of the Lord," and urges the young to remember that wisdom that comes with old age.

The respect that Asians traditionally have had for their elders should be remembered and passed on to the children. Filial piety has an important place in our culture and should not be forgotten. If this alone could be kept alive in the culture, we would see less cases of abuse.

A religious sister who is involved in this work says: "A child becomes an adult and then becomes old. Consequently, the old person is what we too will become. We need to realize that respect for our elders is respect for ourselves, and prepare for a culture that will have respect for all of us."

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