II. Elderly Victims
When elderly people are victimized, they usually suffer greater physical,
mental, and financial injuries than other age groups. Elderly victims
are twice as likely to suffer serious physical injury and to require hospitalization
than any other age group. Furthermore, the physiological process of aging
brings with it a decreasing ability to heal after injuryboth physically
and mentally. Thus, elderly victims may never fully recover from the trauma
of their victimization. Also, the trauma that elderly victims suffer is
worsened by their financial difficulties. Because many elderly people
live on a low or fixed income, they often cannot afford the professional
services and products that could help them in the aftermath of a crime.
It is understandable why the elderly are the most fearful of crime. Elderly
people, in fact, face a number of additional worries and fears when victimized.
First, they may doubt their ability to meet the expectations of law enforcement
and worry that officers will think they are incompetent. They may worry
that a family member, upon learning of their victimization, will also
think they are incompetent. Further, they may fear retaliation by the
offender for reporting the crime. Finally, elderly people may experience
feelings of guilt for allowing themselves to be victimized.
Depending on your approach as a first responder, you can do much to restore
confidence in and maintain the dignity of the elderly victims you work
Tips for Responding to Elderly Victims
- Be attentive to whether victims are tired or not feeling well.
- Allow victims to collect their thoughts before your interview.
- Ask victims if they are having any difficulty understanding you. Be
sensitive to the possibility that they may have difficulty hearing or
seeing, but do not assume such impairments. Ask victims if they have
any special needs, such as eyeglasses or hearing aids.
- Ask victims whether they would like you to contact a family member
- Be alert for signs of domestic violence or neglect, since studies
indicate that 10 percent of the elderly are abused by their relatives.
- Give victims time to hear and understand your words during the interview.
- Ask questions one at a time, waiting for a response before proceeding
to the next question. Avoid interrupting victims.
- Repeat key words and phrases. Ask open-ended questions to ensure you
are being understood.
- Avoid unnecessary pressure. Be patient. Give victims frequent breaks
during your interview.
- Protect the dignity of victims by including them in all decisionmaking
conversations taking place in their presence.
- For hearing-impaired victims, choose a location free of distractions,
interference, and background noise, and:
- Face the victim so your eyes and mouth are clearly visible.
- Stand or sit at a distance of no more than 6 feet and no fewer
than 3 feet from the victim.
- Begin speaking only after you have the victims attention
and have established eye contact.
- Never speak directly into the victims ear.
- Speak clearly, distinctly, and slightly slower than usual. Keep
your questions and instructions short and simple. Do not overarticulate
- If necessary, talk slightly louder than usual but do not shout.
Extremely loud tones are not transmitted as well as normal tones
by hearing aids.
- Be prepared to repeat your questions and instructions frequently.
Use different words to restate your questions and instructions.
- Provide enhanced lighting if victims are required to read. Ensure
that all print in written materials is both large enough and dark enough
for victims to read.
- Provide victims written information that summarizes the important
points you communicated verbally so they can refer to this information
- Remember that elderly victims recollections may surface slowly.
Do not pressure them to recollect events or details; rather, ask them
to contact you if they remember anything later.
- In all your comments and interactions with elderly victims, their
families, and other professionals involved in the case, focus on the
goals of restoring confidence to and maintaining the dignity of the
elderly victims you work with.
|First Response to Victims of Crime