Special Feature: Elder Abuse

elderly manBy 2030, nearly 20 percent of the population is expected to be age 65 or older. Elder abuse among this population is both a pervasive problem and a growing concern.

Aging can be accompanied by changes in physical and mental health and functioning, which can make older adults particularly vulnerable to crime, abuse, and neglect. Isolation, memory loss, and a diminished cognitive ability make it even easier to defraud or coerce them.

Elder abuse is a general term that includes physical, sexual, and psychological abuse; neglect; and financial exploitation. The costs for victims of abuse can be devastating and include serious physical injuries, emotional pain and suffering, shame, depression, shattered trust, financial ruin, and increased risk of mortality.

Elder abuse is often underreported, with only 1 out of every 23 cases being reported to appropriate protective services. Elders may be afraid or unable to tell police, friends, or family about the violence, and victims often have to decide whether to tell someone they are being hurt or continue being abused by someone they depend upon or care for deeply.

During 2003–13, the ratio of property crime to violent crime for the elderly was higher than for younger persons. About 93% of all crime experienced by the elderly during that time was property crime.

To learn more about different forms of elder abuse, what is being done to prevent and respond to cases of elder abuse, and help that is available to victims, please select a page from the box at the right under the “Elder Abuse” heading.