Paper Thin (Elder Abuse)

Collaboration with people who have experienced elder abuse
Partnership with Caxton Legal Centre
2012

When I tell people what I am photographing they look at me askance. “Elder abuse? What’s that?” The very few who don’t question the term whisper their own tremulous tale. From this I glean that unless someone you know, be it through family or work, has had his or her vulnerability taken advantage of, then you have no idea what the hell I’m talking about.

So I find a generic explanation, one I rattle off to everyone, quickly offloading it, without breath or pause: “Elder abuse is any act within a relationship of trust which results in harm to an older person. The most common forms of elder abuse include physical abuse, psychological abuse, financial abuse and neglect.” It does the job but it’s not the whole story.

That’s what I find in the lounge rooms and kitchens I meet people in. Rooms that are, without exception, covered in the collections of long lives; photos, trinkets, albums, newspaper clippings, the bits-and-bobs that add up to the sum of their years. I sit, and I drink tea (endless cups of it) and we talk. Finally I find out what ‘elder abuse’ really means.

Most of the stories leave me gawping in shock, unable to correlate my environment with the words spilling from the person sat in front of me. And I’m not someone who hasn’t come across the horrors that people inflict on each other before. I’ve walked sad paths with very vulnerable people, but this…

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