Office for Seniors’ goes undercover to tackle elderly abuse

The New Zealand Government’s Office for Seniors and FCB marked World Elder Abuse Awareness Day with a print campaign hidden behind crosswords.

The campaign, via FCB, featured undercover crosswords in 20 newspapers around New Zealand 10 days prior to World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (June 15), promoting the free helpline and highlighting the different forms of elder abuse.

Each day, a crossword clue educated elderly on a different type of mistreatment—such as failing to repay money, name calling and neglecting their medical needs—with “Abuse” as the answer each time. The Elder Abuse Response Service’s helpline number appeared at the bottom of each crossword.

The covert message helped to reach elders without their family members catching wind, as relatives make up over 75 percent of abusers.

FCB Media partnered with NZME and Stuff that provided access to non-commercial space for the crosswords in their newspapers.

Office for Seniors director Diane Turner says the FCB team did remarkable work.

“The crossword campaign has helped us to reach some of New Zealand’s most vulnerable people, and bring the issue of elder abuse into public view.” The praise was backed up by the helpline receiving 36 percent more calls in one week of the crosswords running.

The helpline launched last year alongside a nationwide Elder Abuse Response Service (EARS), marking 2017’s World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

At the time, minister for seniors Maggie Barry said: “Research indicates around one in 10 seniors will experience some form of abuse, however only a third of those cases will be reported. For too long it’s been a difficult and sometimes shameful issue to discuss openly. It is time for that to change.”

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