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Policy Dialogue on Violence against Older Persons

Side event of 2024 UNECE Regional Forum for Sustainable Development

14 March 2024 13:30 - 15:00

Peaceful societies for all ages: preventing and addressing violence against older persons

The side event of the UNECE Regional Forum for Sustainable Development “Peaceful societies for all ages: preventing and addressing violence against older persons” was organized by the UNECE Standing Working Group on Ageing in cooperation with the Joint Programme on Ageing for Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The event highlighted violence and abuse against older persons as a barrier to achieving goal 16 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which calls for peaceful societies and aims to reduce all forms of violence. The policy dialogue focused on training—of professionals, carers, volunteers, and community members—as a crucial intervention towards preventing and detecting violence against older persons and protecting and empowering survivors. Representatives of government and civil society from Finland, Malta, Serbia, and Slovenia shared national and regional approaches to training as a way to address violence and abuse against older persons. Speakers from academia and the UN System provided an international perspective on the scope and consequences of the issue and proposed strategies and actions for an effective response.

Claudia Mahler, UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, indicated that comprehensive efforts are essential not only to safeguard the rights of older persons but also to cultivate a culture of respect, care, and support, ensuring a dignified life in our society. Dr. Marie Beaulieu, researcher in the field of countering mistreatment of older persons, presented a synthesis of the knowledge on mistreatment covering definitions, prevalence, determinants, and consequences. She shared insights on the profiles of mistreated older persons and potential abusers and discussed the dynamics of abuse. To reinforce the importance of training diverse actors, from professionals to volunteers, she emphasized the need for active outreach towards older persons to overcome barriers to abuse disclosure and advocated for interventions that balance protection and empowerment of mistreated older persons.

The good practice examples presented by the panelists Minna-Liisa Luoma (Finland), Cynthia Formosa (Malta), Nataša Todorović (Red Cross Serbia), Milutin Vračević (Red Cross Serbia) and Amalija Šiftar (Slovenian Federation of Pensioners Associations) showcased the diversity of approaches in the region and emphasized the shared responsibility among diverse actors to recognize and respond to abuse. An online training programme developed by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare aims to address gaps around domestic violence in social and health care professional and police training programs. In Malta, a specialized training program to improve detection of abuse was developed as part of the implementation of the National Strategic Policy for Active Ageing. It targeted care workers but also a less obvious group in close contact with older adults—repair and trades workers. Based on research on gender-based violence towards older women, the Red Cross Serbia has developed a number of training programmes focused on empowering older women and building the capacity of professionals and volunteers to recognize and respond to elder abuse. In Slovenia, the Federation of Pensioners Associations (ZDUS) trains volunteers to empower and support older survivors of abuse to seek help, adapting programmes to respond to emerging forms of violence.

Yongjie Yon, Technical lead on Ageing and Health at the WHO Regional Office for Europe stressed the need for global action and strong cross-sectoral cooperation to address abuse of older persons and achieve the 2030 Agenda’s ambitions around peace, justice and strong institutions. Calling for comprehensive training of diverse groups of professionals and individuals, the collective responsibility to protect members of the community was emphasized. Reflecting on the presentations by the speakers, Yongjie Yon advocated for a proactive, twofold approach that both empowers older persons and provides protection for those in need, enabling the recognition of their rights, supporting access to necessary services, and fostering a shift from victimhood to resilience among survivors.

Interventions from participants highlighted the need for awareness-raising and training among policymakers to tackle ageism and garner political support for investments to address violence and abuse of older persons. The discussion also shed light on the importance of cross-sectoral cooperation:  lessons learned from approaches to other forms of violence should be integrated to develop more effective strategies to combat elder abuse.  

Seventy participants representing government, civil society, academia and international organizations across 28 countries attended the event. The programme, speaker presentations, and a recording of the event are available below.

Read about the speakers here .


Opening remarks

Lisa Warth, Chief, Population Unit, UNECE

Violence against and abuse and neglect of older persons

Video message by Claudia Mahler,  

Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons

Setting the scene: awareness, support and empowerment

Marie Beaulieu Ph.D.

School of Social Work at the University of Sherbrooke and Research Center on Aging of the Public Network of Health and Social Services, Sherbrooke, Canada


Panel discussion highlighting approaches to training in the UNECE region

  • Minna-Liisa Luoma, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare Presentation
  • Cynthia Formosa, Ministry for Health and Active Ageing, Malta Presentation
  • Nataša Todorović and Milutin Vračević, Red Cross Serbia Presentation
  • Amalija Šiftar, ZDUS, Slovenian Federation of Pensioners Associations Presentation

Discussion with participants

Key takeaways and call to action

Yongjie Yon, Technical Officer, Ageing and Health

WHO Regional Office for Europe








[1] Tackling abuse of older people: five priorities for the United Nations Decade of Healthy Ageing (2021–2030). Geneva: World Health Organization; 2022. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.

[2] United Nations, General Assembly, Violence against and abuse and neglect of older persons: report of the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, Claudia Mahler, A/HRC/54/26 (7 August 2023), available from