What is elder abuse?

When people are disrespected, hurt, ignored, manipulated, isolated, or stolen from, they are experiencing abuse and neglect.  When this happens to an older person by someone they know and trust, it is elder abuse. 

Most often this is caused by family members, friends or others who are in contact with them.

Older people  can experience abuse and neglect in their own homes or wherever they are staying.  They can be abused whether they live by themselves or with other people.

Elder abuse and neglect:
•    Violates human rights.
•    Causes physical injuries and illnesses.
•    Damages mental wellbeing.
•    Reduces financial security.
•    Lowers self-confidence and self-esteem.
•    Harms social relationships.

The term “elder abuse” was introduced in 2002 as an international agreed definition. The WHO Toronto Declaration on the Global Prevention of Elder Abuse is:
“Elder abuse is a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person.”

Services have developed to support older people experiencing abuse for more than thirty years in many countries.  In New Zealand these were initiated by community agencies like Age Concerns.  Research  about elder abuse has also expanded across many societies.  It is now understood that elder abuse occurs regardless of gender, religion, income level, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or cultural groupings a person identifies with. 

Elder abuse and neglect involves the violation of human rights and causes physical and mental injury and illness, damages financial and material security, and can lead to isolation, loss of self-confidence and despair. Elder abuse and neglect usually damages trusted social relationships with family/whanau or friends, neighbours, caregivers and agencies.

There are many reasons why elder abuse occurs. It often stems from attitudes that are ageist, and disrespectful of older people.

The majority of cases that Age Concerns work with involves older people living in their own homes. In most instances it is family members like adult children who perpetrate elder abuse or neglect.

Find your nearest Age Concern