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Alarming revelation: women over 50 live in fear

Forget fearing old age, it seems as women grow older those on lower incomes are more likely to fear the threat of violence, a Queensland University of Technology nationwide study has found.

The Australian Active Ageing (Triple A) Study has shown women need and want to protect themselves against violence as they get older.

QUT Associate Professor Jan Lovie-Kitchin, from the Faculty of Health, said the study looked at older women's perceptions of vulnerability and their expressed need to learn to protect themselves against violence.

The findings coincide with the International Week Without Violence (October 25-31) and the national Reclaim the Night women's march (October 27).

"It is clear that as women grow into the older years, they experience increased feelings of vulnerability," Professor Lovie-Kitchin said. "They need information and want opportunities to learn about ways to protect themselves against violence."

Professor Lovie-Kitchin said being able to live free of fear and with the confidence to participate in social life beyond the home was an important part of improving the quality of life for older women.

"Fear of violence needs to be recognised as a barrier to older people's social connectedness and the health and wellbeing of older women specifically."

Professor Lovie-Kitchin said women on lower incomes reported feeling vulnerable when managing their money, accessing transport, and ensuring their homes were safe and secure.

"Older women might experience feelings of exposure to danger because of their smaller size and lesser strength," she said. "But they could also feel vulnerable because of their limited finances and lack of knowledge which might force them to depend on people they don't necessarily trust.

She said some ideas to alleviate women's perceptions of risk and fears of violence included providing education and information about money management, access to safe transport, and assistance with home security and safety."

"There also needs to be recognition of the influence of media in generating feelings of exposure to danger due to age," she said.

"Sensationalised crimes in the media are often the only form of contact with the outside environment for many older and isolated people, and can heighten their sense of defencelessness.

"While the media may negatively impact on older women's perceptions of violence, it also has the capacity to educate and inform about protective measures for older women."

The Triple A Study, which is being undertaken in collaboration with the National Seniors, involved 2620 adults aged 50 years and over, and looked at how different elements of a person's life contribute to active ageing.

Sandra Hutchinson | EurekAlert!
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