Public awareness of elder abuse has sharply increased, allowing welfare and health services to better tackle the problem, according to a report published on Tuesday by Eshel, the Association for the Planning and Development of Services for the Aged in Israel.
It was released to mark the International Day Against Elder Abuse, which fell on Monday.
Compiled by the American Israel Joint Distribution Committee's Meyers-Brookdale Institute, the study found that while reports of abuse increased over the past year, this was mainly due to the heightened awareness of those caring for the elderly and willingness of the victims to report the abuse against them.
Using a sample of 558 senior citizens in Beersheba, Afula and Bat Yam, the original three out of the eight cities where Eshel runs a program to raise awareness among seniors, those working with them and their families to the problem, researchers found that that the proportion of people 65 and over registered with the social welfare services being treated for abuse increased from 46 percent in 2005 to 59% today.
"This program has brought about heightened awareness to the problem of elder abuse and greatly increased the statistics," said Prof. Itzhak Brick, Eshel's director-general.
"It is unacceptable that every fifth elderly person in Israel suffers from abuse," he continued. "Many times elderly people are ashamed to report this abuse, especially if it is caused by family members."
More than half of the abusers are family members, and about 75% of them are men. A third of the abuse is perpetuated by a partner, the report found.
Sixty-seven percent of the respondents said they were victims of psychological or emotional abuse; 49% were physically mistreated; 21% reported being neglected and 14% said they were not given any rights.
Sara Alon, director of programs for elder abuse at Eshel, which is run jointly by the government and the Joint Distribution Committee, said she welcomed the study's findings and hoped the program would be expanded to additional cities.
She said the NIS 5 million, four-year initiative included supplementary training for social workers and other professionals working with seniors, as well as immediate support to the victims, assistance to the families and legal advice if necessary.