Violence and safety
Violence against older people has many faces. It includes the following aspects: discrimination in the public sphere, linguistic discrimination and financial exploitation, isolation, neglect, physical attacks, and psychological violence such as the restriction of their free will, degrading treatment and disrespectful communication.
Violence against older people occurs in the public sphere as well as in homes and institutions and within families. This frequently happens imperceptibly, often remains unnoticed, or is not viewed as violence. Only a few older people who are victims of violence actually look for help. Many are ashamed of their role as a victim.
A variety of conditions are responsible for the occurrence of violence against older people. Excessive strain and a feeling of helplessness, personal problems and a lack of support, but also the social climate: a pejorative attitude towards old age and prejudices against old people make a decisive contribution towards the occurrence of violence against older people.
Measures for the prevention of violence
Raising public awareness for the issue of violence against older people
The Ministry of Social Affairs takes targeted action to raise the awareness of all forms of violence against older people - with workshops and specialist conferences as well as work with families, employees in homes and institutions, doctors, nurses, carers and the general public.
Our comprehensive range of information material is designed to make people aware of this issue and to thus prevent violence.
The series of leaflets entitled Gewalt erkennen (Recognising Violence) is available as a download.
In order to obtain more precise information and a sound basis for specific measures, the Ministry of Social Affairs commissions fundamental research.
In the study entitled Gewaltschutz für ältere Menschen. Befragung von Expertinnen und Experten über Möglichkeiten und Hindernisse bei der Umsetzung gesetzlicher Regelungen in Österreich (Protection against violence for older people - a survey of experts on opportunities and obstacles in the realisation of legislation in Austria), the legal framework such as laws on guardianship, long-term care benefit, laws against violence and the restriction of freedom were examined to see whether they can make a practical contribution towards preventing violence against older people.
In an online study on the issue of prevention and intervention in the case of violence against older people, interventionist and preventive measures from various countries were illustrated and discussed. Pointing out examples of best practice was a key element here.
In a survey on violence and aggression against older people, an attempt was made to quantify the issue and to provide an overview of the forms of violence which exist. A total of 247 experts in Austrian counselling and help centres and facilities were surveyed.
Advice offers for older victims of violence
Older people seldom contact victims' help organisations directly. Instead, they tend to approach senior citizens' organisations to make complaints.
A telephone advice line has therefore been established at the organisation Pro Senectute Österreich on behalf of the Ministry of Social Affairs. It offers advice and support to those affected, but also to relatives or carers, and can additionally be contacted by anyone else interested in the issue. The number is +43 699 11 200 099.
Prevention of violence in care and support organisations
Joint workshops led to the creation of the Guidebook for the Prevention of Violence in Support Organisations (in German) which offers general guidelines and possible solutions.
In 2014, the guidebook was tested at three facilities/organisations (Linz Neue Heimat Senior Citizens' Centre, Perisutti Care Centre Eibiswald and Mobile Care Volkshilfe Salzkammergut).
The experiences made in the pilot facilities confirmed that there is great interest in the issue of the prevention of violence.
The participants exhibited a readiness to take a closer look at critical factors and situations which can lead to violence against older people and to find new ways of providing support and care which are as free of violence and coercion as possible.
The findings were that support and guidance should be provided at least during the initial phase in a facility. It was also shown to be meaningful that all the staff of a facility and all sub-organisations should take part in the relevant workshops.
Further workshops will therefore be held at the three pilot facilities in 2016.
In addition, workshops will be organised in all of the provinces in cooperation with the respective working groups for residential and nursing homes. Facilitators who are interested in offering workshops on the prevention of violence themselves in their region can also participate in these workshops.
Most accidents involving older people occur in their own homes. The most common cause of accidents is falling, and falls frequently lead to serious injuries. Many accidents involving falls can be avoided.
The brochure Sicher wohnen - besser leben (Live Safer - Live Better) explains the risks posed by household accidents and offers a checklist with which accident risks can be more easily recognised and prevented with simple and cheap home adaptations.
The group of senior citizens using digital media such as the internet and smartphones is growing continuously. In order that older people can also find their way around the digital universe, the Ministry of Social Affairs offers a wealth of information in this field.
The use of the internet and is playing an ever more important role in many areas of our society. The brochure Das Internet sicher nutzen. Informationen und Tipps für SeniorInnen (Using the Internet Safely. Information and Tips for Senior Citizens) provides an overview of the possibilities offered by the internet, but also points out its dangers, for example when shopping online.
The Leitfaden für TrainerInnen (Manual for Trainers) provides useful information on how to best support people who are taking their first steps in the digital world.
In order to provide older people with an easier start in the world of smartphones, the Ministry of Social Affairs has made a range of information materials available - from choosing the right smartphone to useful apps to get started.
Brochures and further information are available from the downloads area.