Elder abuse

7 June 2021

It is predicted that by the year 2050, the global population of people aged 60 years and older will more than double, from 900 million in 2015 to about 2 billion, with the vast majority of older people living in low- and middle-income countries (World Health Organization, 2020). If the proportion of elder abuse victims remains constant, the number of victims will increase rapidly due to population ageing, growing to 320 million victims by 2050 (World Health Organization, 2020). This is a pertinent issue that occurs in society and is often undetected.

What are the different types of elder abuse?

  • Physical abuse: Intentional use of force against the elderly that leads to physical harm.
  • Sexual abuse:The forced or unwanted sexual interaction of any kind with an older adult.
  • Emotional or psychological abuse: Intentional acts that inflict mental pain, fear, or distress on an elder.
  • Neglect: Failing to protect an elder from harm or meet an elder’s needs in a way that results in or risks serious injury.
  • Abandonment: Someone who assumed care of an elderly person and intentionally deserts them.
  • Financial abuse: Illegal or improper use of an elderly persons resources by someone in a trusting relationship with that person.
  • Self-neglect: When an elderly person is no longer able to meet his or her basic daily needs but does not make arrangements to get those needs met by others.

According to research the majority of the elderly are being cared for in communities and some very frail older persons are receiving care from untrained individuals, increasing their risk of becoming victims of abuse (Kotze, 2018). As a result, prevention of elderly abuse is imperative.

Prevention Tips:

If you’re a concerned friend, neighbour, or family member, the following can help to prevent abuse of an elderly person:

  • Call and visit often: Keeping in touch with the elderly will provide a space for ongoing social support
  • Look for signs of abuse: Unexplained bruises, cuts and sprains especially where it is recurring and no medical intervention is received. If there is withdrawn behaviour and changes in mood without known reasons
  • Seek assistance: Call and report abuse if you suspect it. Reach out to agencies and individuals for assistance
  • Keep elders engaged in their communities: Friendships with other individuals and joining senior citizen groups will assist in decreasing isolation and loneliness in the elderly
  • Supporting the primary caregiver: Reach out and check on the caregiver who is primarily responsible. Assist in any way possible

Written by:

Kiara Sunder, Clinical Psychologist, Akeso Umhlanga