The Protector of Citizens points out that the elderly need support and understanding in order to preserve their dignity and exercise their rights. It is necessary to combat the social exclusion and isolation of the elderly and to take measures dedicated to their active participation in society, the prevention of poverty and the improvement of financial position of the elderly, in the area of providing community services, health and social care, personal and family life, said the Protector of Citizens, Zoran Pasalic, on the occasion of the International Day for Older Persons.
The most common problems faced by the elderly are poverty and neglect within the family, including disposition of their property without their consent, dissatisfaction with exercising the right to material support when they are in a difficult financial and life situation due to lack of income or insufficient amount of income, and when they are in poor health condition, exercising the right to the assistance and care of another person is difficult.
Although domestic violence has ceased to be a “private family matter” and a taboo topic, violence against the elderly is not recognizable and visible enough. The elderly are less likely to report violence, especially when the perpetrators of the violence are their children; in such situations – primarily because of loyalty to their own children – older and infirm parents are willing to suffer the most cruel forms of violence, rather than to seek protection from the system. In one case, which the Protector of Citizens investigated on its own initiative, an elderly woman was a longtime victim of her son's violence. She was kicked, slapped, punched, insulted and belittled. Still, she did not want to press charges against her son, in order to protect him from prosecution. Although the victim did not report him, the police, guardianship authority and the health institutions were aware of the violence but failed to take action to protect the victim and prevent the recurrence of violence. Despite the history of violence against the elderly by her son, police officials did not estimate that there was a risk of violence, and the guardianship authority, instead of violence, was concerned with “repairing family relations between mother and son”. The extent to which the police, health care and guardianship authority estimates were incorrect, and the activities inadequate, was shown by the unfortunate tragic death of the victim, who died at the hands of her own son, which is unacceptable.
The lack of support services is still present, especially home support services that are often necessary for this group of population, given that the elderly often live alone and do not have relatives to care for them. These problems are particularly pronounced in rural areas, where elderly women living in single households are in a particularly difficult position, Pasalic said.