call 911 or your local police service
WHAT IS ABUSE OF
Abuse of older adults refers to actions that harm an older person or jeopardize the person's health or welfare. Abuse of older adults is also known as senior abuse or elder abuse.
According to the
World Health Organization, abuse and neglect of
older adults can be a single or a repeated act.
It can occur in any relationship where there is
an expectation of trust or where a person is in
a position of power or authority.
Abuse can be
physical (e.g. hitting) emotional, verbal (e.g.
name calling), financial (e.g. taking money or
property), sexual and spiritual. Some types of
abuse of older adults involve violation of their
rights. Financial abuse is considered the most
common form of abuse of older adults. Neglect
can be part of abuse.
Neglect involves not doing something, such as providing
the older person with food, shelter, medication, or
Older adults often experience more than one form of
abuse and neglect. For example, they may be emotionally
and financially abused, or emotionally and physically
abused. Some older adults may be neglected and have
their rights violated.
Who are the Victims?
Abuse or neglect can happen to any older adult. In fact,
contrary to commonly held beliefs, most older adults who
experience abuse or neglect are mentally competent, are
not dependent on other people, and do not require
constant care. It can occur in any relationship,
including one where there is an expectation of trust or
where a person is in a position of power or authority.
Abuse or neglect of older adults can take place in the
home, in a residential care setting, or in the
Who are the Abusers?
Abuse of older adults most often occurs within
the family, by a spouse, children, and/or
grandchildren. However, abusers can also include
friends, neighbors, paid care providers,
landlords and staff, or any individual in a
position of power, trust, or authority.
How Many Older Adults are Affected by Abuse or Neglect?
Research on abuse of older adults is relatively
new and limited in Canada and throughout the
world. Abuse and neglect of older adults is
often hidden and under-reported. In many cases,
people may not recognize abuse and neglect of
older adults when it is happening. They may not
understand what it is.
Canadian research indicates that between 4 and 10%
of older adults experience one or more forms of
abuse or neglect at some point in their later years
from someone they trust or rely on. Under-reporting
and inconsistencies in collecting information on
abuse suggest that these figures are "the tip of the
Some older adults may be more likely to experience
abuse or neglect, including those who are isolated,
and those who have mental or physical impairments.
Did You Know?
It is estimated that between 177,000 and 442,000
seniors in Canada are experiencing or have
experienced abuse or neglect in later life.
80% of abuse or neglect of older adults is hidden or
goes undetected. Only about one in five cases of
abuse come to the attention of community agencies or
Abuse is not limited to older adults of any
particular culture, ethnic group, social background,
Spousal abuse can "grow old". It can start earlier
in a relationship and continue into later life.
Older women are the victims in about two-thirds of
the cases of abuse or neglect that come to the
attention of community agencies.