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Unaffordable housing a factor in elder financial abuse.

Financial elder abuse exacerbated by unaffordable housing market, study finds

A new study has suggested parents helping their adult children to buy a house will not protect them from financial abuse as they age.

Housing prices, paired with the cost-of-living crisis, has driven many Australian young people to borrow money from their parents – also known as the "bank of mum and dad".

Parents have contributed more than $2.7b to the property market in the year to November 2023, with around 15 per cent of borrowers asking their parents for financial help.

According to researchers at the University of Newcastle and the University of Tasmania, the report found that borrowing from parents encouraged ageist attitudes that can create the necessary conditions for financial elder abuse.

The study said the situation was not rooted in relationships between the individual and family but rather as the outcome of ageist societal attitudes and structural problems in the asset economy.

"Previous research has shown that elder abuse typically arises in the context of relationships, most often between parents and adult children," they said.

"The risk of financial elder abuse also arises and is exacerbated by financial pressures brought about by the asset economy in which housing is increasingly out of financial reach of may and has come to be viewed as a financial asset rather than a dwelling.

"We, therefore, argue that the risk of elder abuse is, in large part, a product of political and economic decisions and the policy settings that have shaped the current housing crisis in Australia."

People in Australia are at an increased risk of abuse in their later years – especially financial abuse.

A review found women were more likely to be abused at 17 per cent than men at 11 per cent, with sons more likely to be perpetrators than daughters.

A study revealed the prevalence of elder financial abuse is 2.1 per cent, and people with poor physical or psychological health and higher levels of social isolation are more likely to experience elder abuse.

The study concluded that housing insecurity and affordability-related challenges affected all walks of life, and financial elder abuse should be "tackled" at an institutional level.

"In the light of these findings, it is necessary to move away from presuming that younger generations will receive or inherit what older adults own, and indeed from the assumption that all older adults are wealthy or financially secure, and to instead understand housing insecurity and affordability-related challenges as affecting individuals across the life course.

"The pathway to doing so lies with tackling the current housing crisis, examining the assumptions embedded in relevant banking and legal practices and challenging the widespread ageist assumptions that lay the groundwork for financial elder abuse to take place."

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