Free babysitting and accommodation: the subtle new form of Elder Abuse

A legal expert is using Seniors Week to warn of a subtle new form of elder abuse, where ‘adult children’ in need of cheap housing and babysitters are leaning far too heavily on their parents, who are seeing their stress levels skyrocket as their bank balances and free time plummet in turn.

NSW Trustee and Guardian Fellow in Elder Law Sue Field, from the University of Western Sydney’s School of Law, says most people imagine their retirement to be a less stressful period of their life when they are free to pursue the activities that provide them pleasure.

But she says the reality for many retirees today is that their days are filled with dirty nappies, screaming fits, and ‘adult children’ living permanently with them to avoid paying rent.

“When you mention the financial and emotional abuse of elderly people, most people naturally picture a charlatan weaselling their way into the hearts and bank balances of vulnerable older people,” Ms Field says.

“But what’s rarely considered is the emotional stress and financial strain placed on the older people who are placed in the unenviable situation of taking care of toddlers all week due to the skyrocketing cost of childcare.”

“Many elderly Australians simply find it too hard to say no, so much so that even when they are asked the ultimate favour, to take the possessions, lives and even partners of their adult children into the family home, they feel they have to say yes.”

Ms Field says many elderly Australians are only too happy to help out, but as a society we must challenge the new wisdom that it’s always a good thing for seniors to accept their children and grandchildren into their daily lives.

“Too many people seem to be forgetting that older Australians actually have their own lives that may not include taking care of their children or grandchildren every day of the week,” she says.

“Many people carefully calculate their retirement savings so they can pursue the life of leisure they spent their whole lives working for, rather than taking grandchildren on costly visits to ice-creameries and animated movies.”

“And it’s not limited to youngsters, it’s having the 30 and 40 year olds moving back in, still leading their active social lives, pursuing their dreams and in many ways resenting the fact that their parents might want a life of their own – one which doesn’t include their constant presence in the house.”

“So this Seniors Week, I urge all Australians, especially those who rely on their parents more than they perhaps should, to stop and consider how they can help elderly Australians live the dream retirement, instead of the one that just helps others with the costs of babysitting and accommodation.”

New South Wales Seniors Week is the largest celebration for people aged over 60 in the southern hemisphere.


14 March 2014

Contact: Mark Smith, Senior Media Officer

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