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The topic of this year’s event related to marking the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day was “Understand and End Financial Abuse of Older People: A Human Rights Issue”. This year, Natasa Todorovic of the Red Cross of Serbia was invited to provide a video statement for the official meeting of 16 June in the United Nations Headquarters, New York.

In her statement Natasa Todorovic highlighted that in Serbia, as in many other countries the problems caused by the high unemployment rate of younger people increase the risk of financial abuse of older people. This does not pertain only to countries in financial transition, the phenomenon can be identified in every country experiencing financial crisis – and it has been especially pronounced since 2008.

Publicly available statistical data shows that the high rate of unemployment in Serbia tends to be followed by increased participation of pensioners in household income. In Serbian society there is a certain level of expectation from older people when it comes to providing for their families, children and grandchildren. This includes devoting their time to their family members, but in some cases also includes putting one’s income at their disposal, which may prevent older people from fulfilling their own material needs. This creates a culture of self-sacrifice and at the same time explains the relatively low recognition and reporting of financial abuse of older people in Serbia.

Financial abuse of older people is a very serious problem both at personal and society level. It is grossly unrecognized and consequently underreported. Part of the problem is that it is connected with prejudices related to ageism and these prejudices are internalized by older people as well. Financial abuse violates basic human rights of older people, while older people often are not informed about their rights. Even if they are aware of what their rights are, the access to those rights is often so complicated that it is akin to being caught in a spider web.