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DOROTHY GILMOUR - Rotary SAFE Families: Elder Abuse

Rotary Dunedin's Rosie Creighton introduced Dorothy Gilmour as a “real diamond” and a woman of action. A passionate Rotarian, she is noted for her “onwards and upwards” outlook to life. A philosophy to align with, a woman to be inspired by. Dorothy joined us from Melbourne identifying herself as a Western Islander, to bring awareness about the Rotary SAFE Families Program centred on Family Violence.

Our focus, Elder Abuse. What started as a manual and a small tool kit is now 4 films for prevention of family violence in particular its impact on our children and abuse of our elderly. We watched a 20 minute video about elder abuse. I can’t speak for anyone else, I can only comment on how this video jolted me into awareness.

I admit I reflected on my behaviour towards my wonderful parents; Do I show them the respect they deserve?  Do I need to open lines of communication with them in case they are feeling abused by other family members. Do I regularly ensure their needs are met, that they feel safe and more importantly, still an integral part of our family acknowledged for their wisdom, skills and experience as Head of the Lennon Clan?

Dorothy’s personal mission and that of Rotary SAFE Families, is that Rotarians can make a difference through awareness.

  • What does abuse look like?
  • How does the abuse manifest?
  • How can you safely intervene while maintaining the dignity and safety of the injured party?
  • How and when to notify specific authorities?

Elder Abuse can be perpetuated by one’s own children, a trusted family member or friend. This can have a profound and detrimental effect combined with a sense of shame and pain. Often there is a reluctance to report mistreatment due family loyalty to their children. the family name and a fear of the consequences such as visits from other family members especially Grandchildren.

Types of Abuse

Ageism – aged discrimination,  lack of respect, intolerance, impatience

Financial – Inheritance Greed

Neglect – food, housing, personal hygiene



Medical – over/under medicating

Emotional -  Social Isolation, denying small pleasures, inflexible routines, denying rights to make or limiting their own choices, questioning competency inducing fear and uncertainty by convincing the elder that they are unable to handle situations.


What can you do?

  • Be a Proactive Bystander and Report. Call Out Ageism. Identify and speak out.
  • Signs to Look For
  • Denied access to the victim.
  • Lack of Social Interaction or attendance at previously enjoyed activities.
  • Unexplained injuries.
  • Unpaid bills, unusual or irregular financial activity.
  • Missing items from within the home.
  • Poor hygiene, health needs not attended to i.e. hearing aid, walking stick.
  • Empower yourself to empower the elderly and be part of the prevention.
  • Show Respect.
  • Believe the Elder. Don’t Judge. Open a Dialogue. Support.


Dorothy’s advice re the “tricky conversation” in light of your elderly relative’s changing situation:

"Circumstances constantly change throughout our lives, as we get older these can be harder to accept. Get the Doctor onside. Often a person outside of the family can connect and relay hard to accept information. Disempower the moaner!! Get in first by repeating the behaviour or words upfront. "

“Someone with a passion can do almost anything.” With a nod to this inspiring speaker, Allen acknowledged that by watching this video we are already part of the solution. President Neville’s advice “be kind to your kids!”

Dorothy's final words:  "We are all aging. At the end we all want to be able to say “ I gave it my best shot!”

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