Allo Maltraitance (ALMA) is a network of helplines to support older people who are the victims of abuse. It is intended to bring issues relating to elder abuse out into the open and to develop a knowledge base of the reality of elder abuse in France.
Older people call ALMA to share their worries, their anger, fears and frustrations, and are being listened to and counseled by trained volunteers.
ALMA works with older volunteers; retired people who are specially trained to provide helpline support. They also get training regarding the complexities and situations that can be part of elder abuse. The choice to work with volunteers stems not only from limited availability of financial resources but also the desire of older retired people to contribute to society and have a useful activity.
Attention for the various forms of elder abuse is a relatively recent phenomenon in France. The Council of Europe set up a working group on elder abuse in 1994. A French gerontologist named Robert Hugonot was appointed chair of the working group which recommended that concrete action should be taken in order to address and prevent elder abuse in France.
This led to the creation of ALMA, which started out with six call centers across France. These call centers have a solid geriatric and gerontology infrastructure behind them with access to specialists as needed. They also ensure strong cooperation between all other stakeholders involved, such as social care providers, and legal and administrative services. The project was supported by the prestigious Fondation National de Gerontologie, the Caisse Nationale de Prévoyance, the Fondation de France and the French Health Ministry.
ALMA now has 61 call centers, covering 75 percent of the French territory and some 900 volunteers dealing with around 5000 cases each year, ALMA is now considered to have the largest experience in the field of elder abuse in Europe. Financial, psychological, physical, sexual and medical abuses are all part of its remit.
ALMA aims to:
- Provide a network of call centers to offer support and advice to victims of elder abuse;
- Ensure appropriate training of the volunteers in each of the call centres;
- Train medical, social and legal professionals on the subject of elder abuse on demand (some 20.000 professionals are being trained every year);
- Assess the qualitative and quantitative evolution of elder abuse in France and to publish and disseminate the findings, in order to raise awareness;
- Work with formal and informal care providers to prevent elder abuse amongst those most at risk;
- Raise public awareness of elder abuse in all its forms by sharing information widely.
For more information, visit: http://www.alma-france.org
about the author
Christine Marking is a Dutch clinical psychologist, with a specialisation in psycho-gerontology and social gerontology. She has worked previously as a psychologist in a nursing home setting in Amsterdam, where she was mainly involved with assessment and treatment aspects of psycho-geriatric patients as well as managing support groups for carers and relatives.
Since September 2003, Christine leads Marking Public Affairs sprl in Brussels, which provides strategic advice and support on a variety of EU health, social and ageing policy related projects and issues.
Prior to this, Christine served as Director of AGE Platform Europe; represented the interests of older people at EU policy level at Eurolink Age; and served as consultant with the Ageing Unit of Directorate General V (Health and Social Affairs) of the European Commission.
 Hello Abuse
 National Gerontology Foundation, National social security office, the Foundation of France