Pictured above from left to right, Femada Shamam (Tafta CEO) with helpline counsellors Phumeza Beni and Mbali Hadebe.

Tafta launches toll free National Elder Abuse Helpline

On 23 November, The Association for the Aged (Tafta) launched a Toll-free National Elder Abuse Helpline. This will not only enable older persons, family members and members of the community to report abuse, but will provide them with crisis counselling and practical assistance.

Femada Shamam, CEO of Tafta said, “According to the World Health Organisation, 1 in 6 persons who are 60 years and older, have experienced some form of abuse.”

South Africa’s total population is 60.14 million people, of whom 5.51 million or 9.2% are over 60 years of age. “Based on the statistics, we felt compelled to reinstate a toll-free helpline for older persons that would be accessible nation-wide,” explained Shaman. “There is a gap in this type of support to elders.”

By calling the toll-free number 0800 10 111 0, any older person in the country will be able to receive free, confidential counselling and be referred to the relevant services closest to them. The service is available daily from 7.00am to 17.00pm and will be managed by trained counsellors experienced in cases of abuse.

Carmel Murugen, the Helpline Project Lead said, “People who have experienced abuse are often reluctant to report it, because they are afraid to report a family member they love or depend on. Or they aren’t aware of their rights, or find the reporting process cumbersome and lack the resources to access services. It is important that older persons understand that they are not alone and that help is just a phone call away.”

The South African Older Persons Act 13 of 2006 refers to elder abuse as ‘a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action which causes harm or distress to an older person occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust’. Abusers are usually the caregivers or a trusted individual such as a family member, friend or acquaintance. Elder abuse occurs in various forms including physical, sexual, psychological or financial abuse. High unemployment rates, poverty, alcohol and drug abuse, breakdown in family structure and the high crime rate in South Africa are all contributing factors to elder abuse.

If you or an older person you know is a victim of abuse, call Tafta’s Helpline. You will help stop the physical, sexual, emotional or financial exploitation of elders and protect them from further trauma, injury or financial difficulties. For more information on the helpline, contact Carmel Murugen on 031 332 3721 or email carmel@tafta.org.za