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White Ribbon relay helps fight domestic violence
16 Nov 2015

Already the White Ribbon relay event has become a firm favourite on the calendar for many New Plymouth people.

Grant Coward says elder abuse rife in Taranaki
15 Jun 2015

Today is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

Sadly, it could just as easily be subtitled "and Taranaki's got nothing to be proud of".

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Grant Coward says elder abuse rife in Taranaki
15th June 2015

Today is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

Sadly, it could just as easily be subtitled "and Taranaki's got nothing to be proud of".

Today is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

Sadly,  it could just as easily be subtitled "and Taranaki's got nothing to be proud of".

It's not a palatable truth for many of us, but one that some community leaders insist needs to be made public and then talked about.

Leading the push is Taranaki Safe Families Trust co-ordinator Callum Williamson. He's been prominent as the public face of the "Taranaki, where family violence is not OK" campaign.

Williamson says Taranaki is no different from the rest of the country when it comes to elder abuse.

"Every week someone is contacting support agencies with elder abuse concerns in Taranaki," he says. " I can think of a couple of horrible cases just off the top of my head that community support agencies had to look in to in the past month.

"Just because it is your mother or father, does not mean you can take advantage of them. Elder abuse, like all domestic violence, is a huge problem in Taranaki."

Specific examples of elder abuse was  one of the powerful  messages former New Plymouth CIB boss Grant Coward, nowadays a New Plymouth District Councillor, has given the region.

Speaking at a seminar organised by David Lloyd, the Elder Protection Co-ordinator of home-based services for Tui Ora, at Hawera on Monday, Coward gave some real-life examples of cases he'd investigated.

"Elder abuse is prevalent and not often reported because the suspects are generally family members," he said.


"Sadly it can form all types of abuse. It can be physical, sexual, emotional, but in my experience the most prevalent is financial abuse.

"Often it is a case in which  Mum  or Dad, or both, are put into a home and have a few dollars saved up in the bank, but the next thing you know they don't have any money.  That's criminal.

"I've worked on three or four cases in Taranaki that demonstrate the problem. One was a homicide, another was one of neglect, and another was of a rest home resident who was ripped off by someone who befriended her by making out she was a caregiver."

Coward said financial abuse was  prevalent, but was hard to detect because generally people in families keep things to themselves and don't want to go to the authorities because they don't want to put a family member in jail.

Williamson endorsed Coward's comments.

"Abuse is often harder to see as older people can be more isolated from the community. "Like all forms of domestic violence, if you see something you think isn't alright say it's not OK, or if you feel they may be in danger, contact  the police.

"There are subtle ways you can see if someone is the victim of elder abuse. For example their appearance may deteriorate, they may stop engaging in the community as they used to, or there may be signs of physical abuse beginning to show."

Talk to the older person about your concerns. Encourage and support them to take action.


It's not OK for older people to be abused or neglected by family members or caregivers. Elder abuse and neglect occurs within a relationship of trust, usually by members of the older person's family/whānau or paid carer.

Elder abuse is a universal problem, and is not limited to any one gender, religion, cultural, ethnic or income group. Elder abuse is not just physical violence or using force like pushing or slapping. It can be:

  • using older people's money without consent
  • controlling who they see, who they talk to, where they go
  • taking decisions out of their hands
  • treating them like children
  • name calling and put downs
  • keeping them at home, denying them the care they need
  • locking them in their room so they don't wander.

Older people have the right to make their own choices and decisions even if we don't agree with them. They have the right to spend their money as they choose.