Pretoria, 15 June 2023: In commemoration of World Elder Abuse Day, which is observed today under the theme: “Closing the Circle: Addressing Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in Older Age - Policy, Law and Evidence-based Responses” the Minister of Social Development, Ms Lindiwe Zulu, urges South Africans to defend the elderly against abuse, by protecting and upholding their rights.


Recognised as the United Nations Day by the General Assembly in its resolution A/RES/66/127 of 2011, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) was launched on June 15, 2006, by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA) and the World Health Organisation. The day seeks to provide an opportunity for communities around the world to promote a better understanding of the abuse and neglect of older persons by raising awareness of their cultural, social, economic, and demographic processes affecting elder abuse and neglect.


In line with the Department of Social Development’s core mandate of prioritising the protection of the lives and the wellbeing of older persons in the country, the Minister of Social Development, Ms Lindiwe Zulu, would like to remind South Africans about the significance of this day. This day, the Minister says, is not only about commemoration, “but an opportunity for communities across the country, to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons. This must be done by raising awareness of the cultural, social, economic, and demographic processes affecting elder abuse and neglect”.


South Africa is in support of the United Nations International Plan of Action which acknowledges elder abuse as a public health and human rights issue. To this effect, the country joins WEAAD in its call-to-action for individuals, organisations, and communities to raise awareness about elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.


South Africa is confirmed to be an ageing population with estimates indicating the proportion of older persons between 60 years and older has grown from 7,6% in 2002 to 9,1% in 2020. The increase in the proportion of older persons’ population, also known as population ageing, is one of the most significant social changes of the twenty-first century and is experienced by almost every country in the world. This increase in the ageing index confirms that South Africa’s elderly population has been on the increase.


The ageing index refers to the number of elderly population of 60 years and above, per 100 individuals younger than 15 years old in a specific population. Consequently, the higher the index, the older the population.

The ageing index in South Africa increased from 30 in 2017 to 33 in 2022 and it was projected that by the year 2015, the proportion of older persons in South Africa would have increased to 9.5% of the population, which is, 4.24 million.


By July 2020, 5,43 million people in South Africa were aged 60 years and above. This increase in the older persons population heightens the concern about elderly abuse and neglect. As a result, this day should be a reminder about the contribution older persons continue to make in the country including looking after orphaned and vulnerable children.


 The South African government recently finalised the Older Persons Amendment Bill and Chapter Five of this legislation focuses on strengthening an inter-sectoral collaboration for the effective management of Elder Abuse. As part of promoting effective management of Elder Abuse, the Department of Social Development has facilitated the establishment of the Older Persons Abuse Register (OPAR).


Being thoughtful of older persons rights, this initiative is managed in partnership with the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development through its Integrated Justice System (IJS) and training of the system users is underway across the provinces to ensure the capturing and processing of all reported cases of abuse of older persons. It is through this initiative that the Department has reached numerous professional Social Workers, an initiative, which should lead to improved reporting, successful prosecution, and safety of older persons.


As we commemorate this day: “I take this opportunity to urge all South Africans to ensure that we protect older persons against any form of abuse and exposure to exploitation. This would assist in ensuring that older persons are empowered and are able to respond to numerous incidents of abuse,” said Minister Zulu.

Minister has urged the country to pause and remember those older persons who succumbed to many unreported incidents  of abuse neglect and ill-treatment over the recent years.




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