Understanding elder abuse

Definitions, evidence and interventions.

In recent years the issue of elder abuse has started to attract attention from governments, academics and community members alike.

Elder abuse is defined as any act, which causes harm to an older person and is carried out by someone they know and trust, such as family and friends. As such elder abuse may be psychological, financial, physical, social or sexual, and can also involve neglect. Despite a growing recognition of elder abuse and the impact that it has on the lives of older people, we lack both a good understanding of the issues involved and the evidence base surrounding this.

Often elder abuse is explored according to the specific characteristics (psychological, financial etc) or the context in which it manifests (residential care, private domicile etc) and we therefore have a quite narrow understanding of the issues involved. This is problematic because often different forms of elder abuse intersect, meaning that we lack a rounded view of the issues facing individuals and potentially opportunities for early intervention. These issues are compounded in the research context where particular disciplines have focused on specific aspects of elder abuse.


Briony Dow [School of Population and Global Health, Faculty of Medicine, Dental and Health Sciences, UoM]