Age Discrimination Commissioner Dr Kay Patterson AO was the keynote speaker at a double-header forum in Port Macquarie on June 4 in the lead-up to World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
There were two sessions at the Respect For Older People forum at the Westport Club – a morning event for local seniors and one in the afternoon for people who work in the aged-care sector.
Dr Patterson spoke at both, with the morning session attracting almost double the expected number of 80 after the Commissioner was earlier interviewed on a local radio station about elder abuse. About 60 people attended the afternoon session.
The forum was jointly organised by Seniors Rights Service and Port Macquarie Hastings Elder Abuse Prevention Network.
Jill McDonnell, Seniors Rights Service advocate and education officer in Port Macquarie, said Dr Patterson’s speech for the morning session focused on “protecting your rights as you age” while the speech for sector workers was about “protecting their rights”. Topics included legal issues, powers of attorney, wills and guardianship.
“Dr Patterson told it like it is; there was no jargon,” Ms McDonnell said. “She’s a very straightforward person and everyone was very attentive.”
Attendees at the community event also enjoyed a quiz about debunking the myths of old ages and a “Hypotheticals” session, which involved case studies around financial elder abuse and a table discussion.
At the afternoon session, a panel discussion featured representatives from Seniors Rights Service, NSW Police, St George Bank, Dementia Australia, the Mid-North Coast Community Legal Centre and the Aboriginal community.
Ms McDonnell said the local branch of St George Bank had been redesigned to be more dementia-friendly. This meant colour was used in particular ways, there was plenty of signage and staff had been trained in how to deal with people with dementia.
“There are lots of little things we don’t think of that can make things a bit easier for people with dementia,” she said.
Bank staff had also received training on what to do if they suspected the person with dementia may be suffering financial abuse at the hands of a relative.
Other speakers at the forum included Port Macquarie Mayor Peta Pinson and Seniors Rights Service CEO Russell Westacott, as well as three local seniors, giving their perspectives on “What RESPECT looks like”.