Rights violations cause six in ten elderly deaths in Turkey

A recent study revealed the extent of the rights violations faced by Turkey’s elderly population, which caused almost six out of every ten elderly deaths in the country. The findings also pointed to the increasing rate of age discrimination in the public. 

Duvar English

The Senex Association for Aging Studies’ most recent report revealed that 378 elderly individuals faced rights violations in the form of violence, neglect, abuse, and discrimination in the first four months of 2024.

“The Report on the Monitoring of Violence and Violations Against the Elderly” analyzed news reports and recorded 101 cases of rights violations against the elderly in January, 90 in February, 97 in March, and 90 in April, according to reporting by the daily BirGün.

A striking finding of the monitoring research was that more than half of all violation cases (58 percent) resulted in death. This was the highest rate recorded in the past 36 months.

Istanbul topped the list with 29 violations, highlighting the difficulty of living in big cities for the elderly.

The report recorded violations against individuals aged between 47 and 90. Some 59 of the news reports did not specify age but referred to victims as "elderly man," "elderly woman," "elderly citizen," "elderly person," "unfortunate elderly woman," or "unfortunate elderly man."

Within the age group, the average age of victims was 74. Frequencies of violations increased with each group, with almost half(48 percent)  recorded events against those over 75. 

The leading cause of death for the elderly was traffic accidents due to neglect (98 cases), particularly occurring on pedestrian crossings. 

Suspicious deaths ranked second with 77 cases. These referred to unnatural deaths under judicial investigation, frequently involving the discovery of bodies in public places. All suspicious death cases involved impoverished elderly individuals.

The third most common cause of death was fires, with 45 cases resulting from neglect, affecting mostly poor elderly living alone.

The report highlighted that deaths from unnatural causes like falls, fires, traffic accidents, and related incidents are common among both elderly men and women, with 104 deaths reported. Additionally, 13 murders were recorded, involving six elderly women and six elderly men killed by close relatives.

The report indicates that violence, neglect, abuse, and discrimination against impoverished, widowed, and disabled elderly women were due to structural factors. 

"Most of these losses could be prevented with appropriate measures. Providing age-friendly environmental services could prevent incidents like falls, collisions, fires, and work accidents," the report stated.

The report also emphasized the need for age discrimination awareness and management, especially for the judiciary and law enforcement.

The association received reports that effective investigation and follow-up are lacking due to biases and lack of care when it comes to the elderly suspicious deaths. 

“Addressing violations against the elderly cannot rely solely on a few individuals' goodwill or an institution's attention. Effective enforcement of laws and new legal regulations are needed," noted the report. 

Senex Association President Özgür Arun stated that age discrimination was increasing in Turkey. Their data from the southern province of Antalya collected in 2013, 2016, and 2020 showed rising age discrimination from 3.5 percent to 7 percent and finally to 10 percent. 

The group’s latest country-wide study conducted during the Covid-19 pandemic found age discrimination at 8%.

Arun noted the findings contradicted the common traditions people believed prevailed in Turkey. 

"I often encountered public officials dismissing my concerns, claiming that 'Turks respect and protect their elderly' as a cultural norm. However, these violations are widespread," Arun added.