Older people as victims
The term “older people” usually means anyone over the age of 65, which is the common age of retirement in Finland. Another definition of an older person is based on functional ability, in which case old age is considered to begin at the age of 75. Advanced age does not make a person more vulnerable to crime, but neither does it protect a person from crime.
Age is one factor that is taken into account when the need for personal protection is assessed during the preliminary investigation of a crime. Age can also be one reason for determining whether a person is vulnerable. Age-related limitations may affect a person’s ability to handle everything required by the criminal process or to seek services that they need.
Types of crime
Older people can become victims of any kind of crime. Being older does not protect one from intimate partner violence or sexual violence, for example. Mental and physical violence are not dependent on age.
Older people are sometimes considered more vulnerable than other people to such crimes as abuse or neglect. Certain types of fraud or scams can target older people in particular. A lowered ability to handle online banking, for example, can make a person vulnerable to economic fraud.
Many older people are dependent on external help, which can lead to a situation in which they are unable or afraid to seek help. The shame associated with being a crime victim can also be an obstacle to seeking help.
Challenges in reporting a crime
Victims of any kind of crime can feel ashamed about the situation, and this can make them reluctant to report the crime. Older people in particular can feel this way, especially if the perpetrator is a family member or otherwise someone close to them.
Reporting a crime online is not necessarily an easy task for someone unfamiliar with computers. Impaired hearing can make it difficult to use the phone, in which case the only option is to visit a police station, which in turn can be difficult for those with restricted mobility.
It may be necessary for an older victim to have a support person for the filing of the report and for the duration of the criminal process.
Special challenges in the criminal process
Claims for punishment and compensation and their importance can be difficult or even impossible to understand for some older people. The general stress and worry caused by a long process can be particularly exhausting for an older person, and can lead to weakened functional ability. Older people living alone are especially in need of support, and often their family or friends may also need counselling and support.
The expectation that the plaintiff will talk about the crime in a logical fashion is not trivial. Some older people can find it impossible to remember details of the event. The trial can also trigger anxiety and fear in them.
Possible consequences of crime
Older people will often heal from physical damage slower than and not as well as younger people, and they have a greater risk of suffering permanent damage or injury. Psychological recovery may take a long time, and not everyone recovers completely. The physical and psychological effects of a crime can make it impossible for an older person to continue life as before, and in some cases can even make institutional care necessary.
Being a victim of some crimes, such as fraud or embezzlement, can cause severe financial problems.
Services and support
Anyone can notify the social welfare authorities if they know an older person who has suffered abuse or neglect. You can also notify the social welfare authorities if you know an older person who needs assistance and support because they are a possible victim of a suspected crime.
You can ask about services for older people by contacting the social welfare office of your residential area, or in urgent cases the social services duty office. The suomi.fi portal has information about public services for older people and their families.
The services of Victim Support Finland are also available to older people and their families and friends. This also includes the services of a personal support person.
Suvanto is an organisation that offers support for older people who are victims of abuse and violence. Information about services for older people is also available from many other organisations such as Vanhustyön keskusliitto (Finnish Association for the Welfare of Older People), Omaishoitajaliitto (Carers Finland), Perhehoitoliitto and Vanhus- ja lähimmäispalvelun liitto (Union for Senior Services).