A 2017 study, based on the best available evidence from 52 studies conducted in 28 countries in different regions, including 12 low and middle-income countries, estimated that 15.7% of over 60s were subject to some form of abuse last year. However, this is likely to be an underestimate as only one of 24 elder abuse cases is reported, partly because older people are afraid to report abuse to family, friends or the authorities. Accurate data is limited, but the study provides prevalence estimates derived from available studies on the number of older people affected by various types of abuse.
Allegations of physical abuse are likely to be accompanied by all kinds of abuse. A recent meta-analysis assessing global prevalence rates of abuse against older women found that one in six women had experienced abuse the previous year. Before the COVID 19 pandemic, it was estimated that one in six elderly people had been abused.
Worldwide, violence, abuse and neglect against the elderly are on the rise, including physical, financial, psychological, verbal and sexual abuse and neglect. New evidence suggests that abuse has increased in many countries as a direct result of the COVID 19 pandemic.
A recent global systematic survey estimates that one in six older people each year experienced some form of physical, emotional, sexual, or financial abuse. The National Center on Elder Abuse estimates that between 1 and 2 million elder abuse, neglect and exploitation cases in the United States occur each year – less than one in five reported. By comparison, this is more than in the UK, where current estimates of domestic violence are 1.9 million a year.
Providing accurate statistics on abuse, neglect and abuse of the elderly is a challenge, as we know older victims are reluctant to report cases and many people have difficulty defining when and where abuse and neglect of the elderly occurs. Despite steady progress in understanding the problem, society’s response to elder abuse / neglect / abuse is comparable to the response to child abuse 30 years ago or domestic violence 10-20 years ago.
One of the most worrying social consequences of COVID-19 is a significant increase in the number of older cases of abuse, accompanied by an increase in ageing. In reports of domestic violence against older victims, the lack of awareness and acceptance of violence and abuse in later life has been denounced.
Older abuse describes intentional acts that cause or risk causing harm, such as the failure of careers to meet basic needs and safe living conditions for the elderly. The CDC defines abuse of the elderly as the deliberate act or omission of an act of a caregiver or another person in a relationship that includes an expectation of trust that causes or creates a serious risk of harm to an older adult. Nationally, 50% of elders have experienced abuse and 83% of elders report widespread abuse in society.
In 2013, 30% of older people reported cases of abuse, while 70% of people did not report the abuse they had been subjected to.
With the global explosion of the elderly adult population, abuse of the elderly is likely to become a more pressing problem affecting millions of people. Older people are victims of crime, and crimes against the elderly are recognized as an emerging social problem in some countries.
Older abuse has devastating individual consequences and social costs that deserve attention as a serious public health problem. Despite the victimisation of the elderly, most societies have an apathetic attitude towards the elderly. Emphasis is appropriate, as abuse of the elderly is a widespread and preventable problem, as are many diseases and diseases of the elderly.
It is reported that 72% of the abused old people belong to the 60-69-year-old age group, 25% belong to the 70-79-year age group, and 3% are 80-80 years old. These important numbers are likely to rise, as the West’s population continues to age at least at a rapid pace.
Other risk factors include cognitive impairment, physical frailty and the dependency on others for care. Other studies have focused on the extent of financial exploitation by relatives and caregivers. However, the usefulness of these studies in determining the extent of your local problem is limited.
Further studies are essential to identify the scale of the problem, identify needs, validate evidence and develop best practices and strategies to prevent, detect, treat and eliminate elder abuse and theories are essential to explain the complex causes, risk factors, interrelated dynamics and consequences of elder abuse. In addition to improving practices and measures to prevent and detect abuse, theories are crucial for the development of strategies and the promotion of education and practical knowledge in this area.
They argue that the lack of a common definition of elder abuse is a major obstacle to the creation of effective intervention and prevention strategies. Governments need to recognise that there is abuse by older people and ensure that there are laws in place that can be used to prosecute perpetrators, says Georgina Veitch.