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Improving the support for older women

On 23 November we held a seminar on Older Women – invisible victims of gender based violence and abuse.

The presentations and key points from the expert speakers at our seminar on older women are below. But first we have some key recommendations for professionals from a daughter of an older woman survivor.

Recommendations from a daughter on protecting older women from abuse

  • Remember older women may have been in an abusive relationship for decades and be unable to articulate their situation.
  • Consider dementia and lack of capacity as possible enablers of further entrapment.
  • Involve trusted wider family members at an early stage, listen to concerns raised.
  • Follow advice from Domestic Abuse experts and enable space out of the home for the woman to talk with a trained facilitator.
  • Ensure that the vulnerable older woman is at the centre of all work as in Child Protection. This will help guard against perpetrators manipulation and distraction.
  • Ensure robust multi-agency working and core group in place to challenge manipulation.All must share information regularly.
  • Implement a comprehensive care plan with frequent review and monitoring.

Presentations from our seminar

See the film of the speakers at the seminar stating their key points.

Bridget Penhale, Reader in Mental Health of Older People at the University of East Anglia spoke about ‘The nature, extent and impact of the abuse of older women’. Bridget’s key points included

  • Gender based abuse of older people is a problem that is under recognised, and there is a lack of research in this area.
  • The impact of such abuse may be chronic and is often concealed as victims are inclined to keep the experience secret.
  • Older people, especially women, need help to recognise the abuse and seek help.

Sarah Wydall, Senior Research Fellow & Joint Principal Investigator and Rebecca Zerk, Doctoral Researcher, Choice Project, Aberystwyth University spoke about ‘Barriers and Enablers to Help- Seeking and Engagement for Victims of Domestic Violence and Abuse’. Sarah and Rebecca’s key points included

  • The importance of presenting diversity in imagery which is not patronising and does not reflect an unrealistic version of later life.
  • Service providers should try to adopt language older people use themselves and are comfortable with.
  • The prevalence of ageism requires more sensitivity and there is a need to acknowledge diverse identities in this age group.

Richard Powley, Head of Safeguarding, Age UK spoke about ‘Older women and domestic abuse – completing the jigsaw’. Richard’s key points included

  • As we are an ageing population we need to take the issue seriously as more and more people are likely to be affected by it.
  • Two key aspects for service providers to resolve are
    • Structural level of service provision – this entails agencies working together better.
    • Personal level of service provision – improving how we communicate with older people and the need to avoid ageist assumptions and presumptions.

Monsura Mahmud, Domestic Abuse Prevention Adviser at Solace Women’s Aid Silver Project spoke about the ‘Findings of the SIlver Project‘.   Monsura also shared the Silver Project’s good practice guidelines and guidelines on flexibility and variety of services.

“Fantastic event with knowledgeable speakers which has helped generate thoughts and contacts….”

We intend to do more to address the needs of older women survivors in the future. Sign up to our newsletter to keep in touch with our work.


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