The Fono

Health & Social Services

Phone 09 837 1780 Twitter Facebook LinkedIn

Looking after our matua (elders)

In our Pacific communities our elders; or mātua mātutua, metua, matu’a, kaumatua, kara, luluai; are given the utmost respect or fa’aaloalo. That’s why the concept of elder abuse is so foreign to us. Unfortunately, it is a serious issue and there are cases of elder abuse within our Pacific communities.

Elder Abuse is defined as "a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person”.  

Elder abuse is a growing concern. Here in New Zealand the number of people aged 65 and over is expected to almost double to 1.2 million by 2035, along with a 130% increase in people aged 80 and over.

The New Zealand Longitudinal Study of Ageing (NZLSA) released a report just last year which showed that the vast majority of older people in New Zealand are safe and are not experiencing or at risk of abuse and neglect.

However this doesn’t mean that elder abuse does not occur in New Zealand.

In a statement released in early June, Hon. Maggie Barry, Minister for Seniors said that there are more than 2,000 reported cases of elder abuse and neglect each year, with many more incidences unreported.

Research shows that one in ten older people have experienced some form of abuse. The majority is caused by family members and is often emotional and financial rather than physical.

“We need to get this shameful problem out of the shadows and confront the reality of how prevalent it is in our society,” says Barry.

Make sure you look after your elders, for when you were younger they looked after you. Gather around and check in on the older ones in your community regularly to ensure they are healthy, and happy.

Here are some signs for detecting elder abuse:

  • unexplained behaviour, sleeping or eating habits
  • withdrawal and/or anxiety
  • fear of a particular person
  • confusion
  • unexplained injuries
  • drowsiness (due to over-medication)
  • flinching from touch
  • unusual withdrawals from bank accounts
  • unpaid bills, lack of money for necessities

Older Peoples Support Programmes

We offer an activity programme for older people, taking into account a variety of preferred participation and support levels. Additionally, support is available for those members who speak English as a second language or who have limited communication abilities.

Find out more