In Thabong in the Free State, a 37-year-old grandson will appear before the Court for allegedly raping his grandmother, aged 79 years.

In December 2020, Detectives at the Woodstock Police Station opened a case of assault against an 18-year-old man after a video surfaced on social media of him assaulting an elderly man and spitting in his face.

In February, the body of an 80-year-old granny was found with multiple stab wounds in the Karool Retirement Village in Polokwane.

Violence, abuse and the killing of older persons is alarming and a reality in our society today. Incidents such as the above are often reported in the media but the full extent of the problem is not known. This is mainly due to:

  • Under reporting: whilst residential care facilities for the elderly provide for a more controlled environment in so far as the reporting of abuse is concerned, the prevalence of abuse in communities and family units is far more prevalent and is largely under reported. More older persons live in communities than in retirement villages or care facilities, and perpetrators of abuse are frequently family members.
  • In South Africa, research on elder abuse is very limited. National elder abuse statistics do not fully reflect the extent of the abuse.  If reported, the abuse might be classified under a different heading e.g. physical abuse classified as domestic violence, financial abuse as theft or fraud; no acknowledgement, as far as I am aware, is made to the crime being against an older person.
  • Older persons are afraid to speak out, to report incidents of elder abuse for a number of reasons.  Fear of recrimination, further abuse by the perpetrator and often the unwillingness of the Police to take the charge are some of the reasons for this.

The Older Persons Act (13 of 2006), states clearly that any person who abuses an older person is guilty of an offence.   Although this Act aims to provide protection for older persons against various types abuse, the fact is incidents of abuse are often not reported and perpetrators not prosecuted. Instances of abuse reported in the media are but a fraction of the actual extent of the problem and seldom lead to investigation and, if substantiated, prosecution.

Despite the promulgation of this Act in 2010, real protection for the elderly against abuse has not materialized:

  • Many police officers are still uninformed about abuse cases in which older persons are the victims. This, despite National Instruction 1 of 2014 that provides police officers with guidance on how to respond to a complaint of the abuse.
  • No itemised crime statistics are available on the abuse of older persons.
  • The finalization of the Elder Abuse Register, as stipulated in the Act, has not materialized 11 years after promulgation.
  • No dedicated national help-line exists as a way for older persons to report abuse.

The economic and social hardships experienced by older persons as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic places them at a much higher risk of abuse and exploitation.

The SAOPF will be calling on the National Minister of Social Development, National Police Commissioner and if need be, the President for action. 

“A society that does not value its older people denies its roots and endangers its future.” Nelson Mandela