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Elder Abuse Rampant Among Indian & Chinese Migrants In NZ

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A disturbing trend has emerged among some elderly migrants in New Zealand, who are being abandoned, financially exploited, and even physically assaulted by their own families. This alarming issue has been brought to light by a charity dedicated to supporting senior citizens in South Asian communities, The New Zealand Herald reported.

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Recent research indicates that elder abuse is rampant within Asian communities, with nearly half of older Indians and a third of Chinese seniors aged 65 and over reporting victimisation.

Jeet Suchdev, chairman of Bhartiya Samaj, a charitable trust, shared heartbreaking stories of elder abuse within the Indian community, often perpetrated by family members. "Elder abuse is an epidemic that is widespread and rampant, but so hidden that the real level of abuse may never be known," Suchdev said.

Bhartiya Samaj has handled "dozens of cases" over the past few years, with at least two cases each month. One such case involved an elderly couple who moved from India to help raise their grandchildren. Speaking little English and in their 80s, they trusted their daughter and son-in-law with their finances. After a hospital stay, they returned home to find their bank accounts drained.

"Never in their wildest imagination did they ever think their daughter, 'their own flesh and blood,' would 'rob them' of all their money," Suchdev explained.

In another case, a housewife in her 70s moved to New Zealand after her husband passed away. Invited by her son, she was later kicked out and abandoned on the street when his business failed.

Suchdev noted that in many instances, elderly victims did not want to involve the police or file official complaints. "They come from cultures that are not used to making complaints and won't make a report because they feel it is a loss of face."

Te Tari Kaumātua, the Office for Seniors, estimates that one in ten older people in New Zealand experience elder abuse, though most cases go unreported.

A new study, Belonging as an Ageing Asian, by emeritus professor of diversity Edwina Pio from AUT University, found that elder abuse remains hidden due to a reluctance to complain. About 96 per cent of cases went unreported.

Pio's research, which included interviews with high-level managers and focus groups from Chinese, Indian, and South Korean communities, revealed that financial, verbal, and physical abuse are common. "In all three communities, there is financial, verbal, and physical abuse with regret, grief, and hopelessness etched in the DNA of those experiencing abuse," Pio said.

The study found that many elderly Asians faced financial abuse when living with their children, who often took their superannuation money and bank cards. One Chinese participant shared that her friend, unable to drive or speak English, relied on her children, who eventually resented and mistreated her.

The report also highlighted the significant barriers faced by elderly migrants, including language isolation, fearfulness, and resistance to care. "It is unfortunate that elder abuse is mostly among family members but also sometimes perpetuated by those who provide care for elders," a manager noted.

The study called for an ethnic strategy for ageing Asians, emphasising the need for linguistically and culturally appropriate healthcare, independent living facilities, and comprehensive support services.

For those seeking help, Asian Family Services offers support in multiple languages, and several helplines are available, including Lifeline, the Suicide Crisis Helpline, and the Depression Helpline.

Where to get help

  • Asian Family Services: 0800 862 342 Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm or text 832 Monday to Friday 9am - 5pm. Languages spoken: Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi and English.
  • Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.
  • Lifeline: 0800 543 354 or text HELP to 4357
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.
  • Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7) or text 4202
  • Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)
  • Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254
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