Russia: problems of abuse of the elderly

“80% of elderly people do not report abuse

24 November 2021

Why do elderly people justify the abuse aimed at them, and how to combat domestic violence and neglect in medical and social institutions.

These topics were discussed on 24 November at the open table “Questions of violence and neglect towards the elderly”.

There is no concept of dignity in old age and there is stigma

Maria Morozova, director of the Timchenko Foundation, reported that according to the World Health Organisation, one in six people over the age of 60 encounter abuse at home. In institutions this figure is even higher.

“80% of elderly people do not report abuse. This is particularly the case at home. There’s a reason behind this: in our culture it’s frowned upon to talk about domestic arguments.

There are many situations where neither the victim nor the aggressor recognises that it’s abuse. There are many reasons for this”, noted Maria Morozova.

In Russia we still haven’t developed the concept of dignity in old age, and there is stigma, which the elderly use to justify the abuse towards them.

Often the elderly view themselves as a burden on society and their close relatives. This guilt complex is what often justifies violence.

The situation is further aggravated by the fact that there are practically no crisis centres in Russia for victims of violence and abuse. “Targeted work is done by CSOs and volunteers, there are subsidies for state institutions, but it’s not enough. The work has to be done systematically and in an integrated way, with all the parts working together: lawyers, doctors, psychologists, and representatives from social care”, explained Maria Morozova.

Domestic violence

Tatiana Akimova, leader of the ‘Help is at Hand’ coalition of CSOs and the ‘Silver Age’ alliance, also noted the problem of abuse and neglect towards the elderly at home. She emphasised that law enforcement authorities don’t have effective instruments and strategies for preventing domestic violence.

The ‘Help is at Hand’ coalition proposes:

  • For the few CSOs specialising in helping elderly people suffering from abuse to pool resources and develop effective technologies and projects.
  • To build inter-sector cooperation, with CSOs, government authorities, and social and medical institutions.
  • To develop the network of shelters for victims of abuse, where they can reside temporarily or permanently.
  • To talk openly to the public about the problem of abuse and how people can help.
  • To improve legislation: create more tools to protect victims of abuse and avoid further violence.
  • To create and develop spaces for intergenerational interactions, where young people can find out more about the lives of elderly people so as to better understand them.

Abuse in medical and social institutions

Tatiana Akimova reported that the methodical recommendations of the Russian Clinical Centre of Gerontology outlined five causes of abuse:

  • Lack of skills and knowledge among staff.
  • Prejudices against elderly people based on assumptions that they can get by with fewer opportunities and worse quality.
  • Staff shortages in medical institutions, particularly during the pandemic. And the indifference of senior figures towards abuse, leading to a lack of structured approaches to dealing with situations of abuse.
  • Personal characteristics of medical and social workers.
  • Isolation of institutions from society, for example during the pandemic.

‘Help is at Hand’ proposes:

  • To educate staff at all levels (from management to security personnel) and volunteers about the fundamentals of old age, to talk about the particularities of old age, and teach how to communicate with the elderly.
  • To raise awareness within society of aspects of abuse and to carry out preventative measures.
  • To offer psychological support for medical and social workers to prevent stress and burnout.
  • To create environments of no tolerance of abuse and neglect towards the elderly in medical and social institutions. Ideally each institution should have a clear framework to combat abuse, resolve situations, and work with staff.
  • Implements SLCs (systems of long-term care).

Proposals from the ‘Silver Age’ foundation

Elena Ivanova, head of the analysis department at ‘Silver Age’, talked about the foundation’s proposals for combating abuse. Since 2018 the ‘Silver Age’ foundation has been implementing the ‘System of Long-term Care’ project across various regions. The project focuses on integrated social and medical support for people with chronic disabilities in need of outside assistance. The aim of the system is to get people back into society as much as possible and back to their normal way of life.

The ‘Silver Age’ Foundation proposes:

  • To implement SLCs more quickly.
  • To create a network of CSOs in each region, which will support elderly people in abusive situations.
  • To develop plans of action for the police, the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations, medical organisations, and CSOs.
  • To educate and inform specialists working with the elderly.
  • To start a discussion in society around the possibility of legislating against violence towards the elderly.


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