Up to 30% of seniors suffer from ill-treatment in the Czech Republic

At the end of April, the Faculty of Social Studies of Masaryk University, the Gerontological Institute, and the Institute for Restorative Justice organized a professional conference and workshop on the topic of abuse and exploitation of seniors and the possibilities of using restorative approaches in the solutions.

31 May 2023

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"Around thirty percent of seniors in the Czech Republic suffer from abuse, ill-treatment, and undermining of their dignity. According to rough estimates, efforts to address this phenomenon cost our society over 1.5 billion CZK a year. Yet the voices of the victims remain unheard. Therefore, we invited Canadian expert Arlene Groh, who presented her years-long experience with the issue of abuse and exploitation of seniors addressed through restorative approaches," said Lucie Vidovićová, one of the organizers of the event from the Department of Sociology.

At the conference, the researchers also presented the results of their unique research, which, for the first time in the Czech senior population, collected prevalence data in a representative manner based on a sample of almost 2,700 respondents. The experts' research covered the so-called EAN (elder abuse and neglect) syndrome, i.e. the occurrence of various forms of physical and psychological violence, material and financial abuse, restriction of personal freedoms, undermining of dignity, sexualized violence, violence on the Internet, victimization, etc. "The so-called 'EAN', which is a syndrome of ill-treatment of the elderly, does not even have a well-established name in the Czech Republic. It has a whole spectrum of causes, occurs in many contexts, and escapes simple solutions," Vidović told AGE magazine (full article here).

It has turned out that, according to the first-ever prevalence representative survey of the Czech population, 29 percent of people over 65 living outside institutions experience EAN syndrome every year. Many of them are abused repeatedly and intensively, but the vast majority do not talk to anyone about it. Of those who did talk to someone about the incident, only 70 percent said that it improved the situation. This shows a great scope for improving awareness of the occurrence of the phenomenon, the types of help available, and, above all, the urgent need for awareness-raising.

The first results of the research have already had practical implications. The definition of EAN has been recommended by the Committee on the Rights of the Elderly of the Government Council for Human Rights to the Committee on Gender-Based Violence to include older people's issues in their agendas. At the same time, a professional and political discussion was initiated on the possibility of modifying some non-compliant measures in existing laws and adding new measures in the form of a new Elderly Abuse Act. This would be inspired by the Domestic Violence Act that is currently being drafted. There is a consensus among experts that tackling the EAN phenomenon would benefit greatly from taking a similar approach.

The conference was held under the auspices of the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Ing. Marian Jurečka and the Government Commissioner for Human Rights Mgr. Klára Šimáčková Laurenčíková and was attended by over 70 professionals from the field of social work and social policy as well as from the field of justice. In addition to listening to the expert lectures, the participants took advantage of the opportunity to practice the so-called healing circle under the guidance of the Canadian expert Arlene Groh.

The next steps for the researchers are the preparation of two methodologies for practice. The first one, which is specifically dedicated to finding a definition of abuse, ill-treatment, and undermining the dignity of the elderly, is currently available for so-called public consultation. This participatory process allows the general public, both lay and professional, to comment on the material and add their expertise at the following link: https://1url.cz/@RESTABUS. The second emerging methodology summarises the experience gained at the conference and focuses on practical recommendations for the use of the restorative justice principles.

More about the project, its outputs, and recordings of the events can be found here.

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